[Congressional Record Volume 144, Number 84 (Wednesday, June 24, 1998)]
[Pages H5252-H5267]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) is recognized for 5 minutes.

[[Page H5253]]

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I will place in the Record an article that 
has become controversial in the fact that it begins to examine more 
carefully the question surrounding the Independent Counsel, Kenneth W. 
Starr, in connection with his off-the-record contacts with Members of 
the media. I ask that this material be included.
  The material referred to is as follows:

                [From Brill's Content, July/August 1998]


                           (By Steven Brill)

       What makes the media's performance a true scandal, a true 
     example of an institution being corrupted to its core, is 
     that the competition for scoops so bewitched almost everyone 
     that they let the man in power write the story--once Tripp 
     and Goldberg put it together for him.
       It began with high fives over the telephone. ``It's 
     breaking! It's breaking! We've done it,'' Lucianne Goldberg 
     screamed into her phone in Manhattan to her son in 
     Washington. It was 7:00 A.M., Wednesday, January 21.
       ``This was my mom's day,'' says Jonah Goldberg, 29, 
     referring to the controversial New York literary agent who 
     had now shepherded the Monica Lewinsky story into the world's 
     headlines and onto Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's radar 
     screen. ``Here was everything we'd done since the fall 
     breaking right there on Good Morning America, with Sam 
     Donaldson standing in front of the White House and George 
     Stephanopoulos talking . . . impeachment.''
       ``For five years I had had all kinds of Clinton stories 
     that I had tried to peddle,'' Lucianne Goldberg recalled 
     during a series of interviews. ``Stories from the state 
     troopers, from other women, you name it. And for five years I 
     couldn't get myself arrested. Now I was watching this [and] I 
     was lovin' it. Spikey and Linda and us had really done it.'' 
     ``Spikey'' is Lucianne Goldberg's pet name for Michael 
     Isikoff, the relentless Newsweek reporter whose stories about 
     President Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct--from Paula 
     Jones to Kathleen Willey and now to Monica Lewinsky--had led 
     the way on this sometime lonely beat. ``Linda'' is Linda 
     Tripp, the onetime White House secretary now known more for 
     taping than typing. For four years she had been a frustrated 
     client of Goldberg's, hoping to sell a White House scandal 
       As of this morning, Tripp, under Lucianne Goldbergs' 
     tutelage, had constructed the material for Isikoff's greatest 
     scoop--often according to his probably unwitting 
     specifications. The two women had even steered it in a way 
     that now allowed Ken Starr to hone in on the president and 
     the intern. Then, by leaking the most damaging details of the 
     investigation to a willing, eager press corps Starr was able 
     to create an almost complete presumption of guilt. Indeed, 
     the self-righteousness with which Starr approached his role--
     and the way he came to be able to count on the press's 
     partnership in it--generated a hubris so great that, as 
     detailed below, he himself will admit these leaks when asked.
       The abuses that were Watergate spawned great reporting. The 
     Lewinsky story has reversed the process. Here, an author in 
     quest of material teamed up with a prosecutor in quest of a 
     crime, and most of the press became a cheering section for 
     the combination that followed. As such, the Lewinsky saga 
raises the question of whether the press has abandoned its Watergate 
glory of being a check on official abuse of power. For in this story 
the press seems to have become an enabler of Starr's abuse of power.

       An examination of the Lewinsky story's origins and a day-
     by-day review of the first three weeks of the media coverage 
     that followed, suggest that as it has careened from one badly 
     sourced scoop to another in an ever more desperate need to 
     feed its multimedia, 24-hour appetite, the press has 
     abandoned its treasured role as a skeptical ``fourth 
     estate.'' This story marks such a fundamental change in the 
     press's role that the issues it raises will loom long after 
     we determine (if we ever do) whether the president is guilty 
     of a sexual relationship with the intern, obstruction of 
     justice, or both.

                     looking for a true crime story

       It started with the 1993 death of Deputy White House 
     Counsel Vincent Foster, Jr. In some anti-Clinton circles, 
     Foster's suicide became what Lucianne Goldberg calls ``the 
     best true crime story out there. . . . I was interested in 
     getting a book out about Foster's death, and Tony Snow [the 
     conservative columnist and now--Fox newsman] suggested I talk 
     to Linda Tripp.''
       A veteran government secretary, Tripp, then 43, had been 
     assigned to work for White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum. 
     Tripp claimed to have been the last person to see Foster 
     alive, and, as with many aspects of her jobs, she made more 
     of this Jeopardy-like fact than it was worth.
       Following Nussbaum's resignation in 1994, Tripp was moved 
     to a job at the Pentagon. She got a rise, but, in terms of 
     status, it was a comedown.
       Goldberg was a good match for Tripp. A gravelly-voiced, 
     chain-smoking 63 year-old with a self-described ``big 
     mouth,'' Goldberg is a West Side Manhattanite who takes 
     delight in defying her neighborhood's liberal chic. She runs 
     in conservative circles, makes no secret of her disdain for 
     the president, and her acknowledged past includes doing dirty 
     tricks for the Nixon campaign.
       Yet the reception Tripp got from Goldberg was a letdown. 
     ``She had been the last person to see Vince Foster, and she 
     hated the Clinton people and told me stories about the 
     clothes they wore and how they f--ked around with each other. 
     . . . But was that a book? Come on,'' says Goldberg.
       ``I kinda liked her,'' Goldberg continues. ``So we kept in 
     touch, and we did put a proposal together.''
       As The New Yorker reported in a February article by Jane 
     Mayer that deserves credit for being the first to spot the 
     Goldberg--book deal impetus for the Tripp-Lewinsky story, the 
     proposal contained a purported but nonspecific chapter on 
     sexual hijinks.

                          the ``pretty girl''

       In May of 1996, Tripp told Goldberg about a former White 
     House interim who had been transferred to the Pentagon and 
     was working with Tripp in the public affairs office. ``One 
     day Linda called and told me about what she called ``the 
     pretty girl,'' who'd become `` her friend,'' Goldberg 
     recalls. ``She said the pretty girl said she had a boyfriend 
     in the White House. Linda was excited. This might be 
       ``A few weeks later,'' says Goldberg, ``Linda told me the 
     pretty girl's name [Monica Lewinsky] and said the boyfriend 
     was Clinton.''
       But, says Goldberg, ``even with proof, which she didn't 
     have, it was just another Clinton girlfriend story. Maybe the 
     girlfriend could do a book, but not Linda.''
       ``I remember for a while my mom thinking Linda could get us 
     Monica as a client.'' says Jonah Goldberg, a television 
     producer who also runs a Washington office for his mother.
       Nonetheless, according to the two Goldbergs, Tripp 
     repeatedly rebuffed their hints that they meet the former 
       Although Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg kept up their 
     relationship through 1996, Goldberg did not push the book 
     idea. ``It wasn't high on my list,'' says Goldberg. ``No one 
     seemed to care about this guy screwing everything in sight.''

                          on the radar screen

       Perceptions about the president and sex changed markedly as 
     1997 began. In January, Newsweek published a cover story on 
     the Paula Jones suit declaring that the case deserved to be 
     taken seriously. The Newsweek story--along with the Supreme 
     Court's hearing (also in January) of the Jones lawyers' 
     appeal that their case not be delayed until after President 
     Clinton had left office--suddenly made the president's 
     alleged sexual misconduct and his resulting legal troubles 
     topic A.

                          isikoff on the hunt

       Newsweek now allowed Isikoff, its lead reporter on the 
     Jones story, to add the Clinton sex allegations to a beat 
     that already included not only Whitewater, but also the 
     blossoming controversy surrounding the funding of the 1996 
     Democratic campaign.
       A native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island, Isikoff, 
     46, started in journalism as a reporter for a Washington-
     based news service initially funded by Ralph Nader. ``It was 
     the Woodward and Bernstein era,'' he says. ``Being a reporter 
     was exciting.''
       For him, it still is. A journalist's version of Columbo, 
     with a perpetually whiny voice and a awkward, nervous look. 
     Isikoff instinctively distrusts power. Now, as he patrolled 
     his expanded beat in early 1997, Isikoff got a tip from one 
     of Jones's lawyers, who had heard that there was a 
     volunteer White House worker who had been groped by the 
     president in 1993 when she'd met with him seeking a job.
       Isikoff eventually tracked down Kathleen Willey, and after 
     he had pestered her over a period of several months, she 
     talked about the incident but refused to be quoted. According 
     to Isikoff. Willey suggested that he ``go ask Linda Tripp'' 
     for confirmation, because Tripp had seen Willey after she'd 
     left the Oval Office on the day of the alleged incident.
       Yes, she had seen Willey emerge from the Oval Office 
     disheveled, Tripp told Isikoff, according to his subsequent 
     story. And yes, Willey claimed the president had kissed her 
     and fondled her. But, no, Tripp declared, Willey was not 
     upset; she seemed happy about the president's attention.
       Isikoff says that he and his editors were reluctant to go 
     with that confusing account, until they learned in late July 
     that the Jones lawyers had subpoenaed Willey (but not Tripp, 
     whom they did now know about). Now Newsweek had a hook--a 
     legitimate more-than-just-sex hook--for the story.
       The result, entitled ``A Twist In Jones v. Clinton,'' was a 
     tortured account of the potential role that a new but 
     reluctant accuser, Kathleen Willey, might have in the Jones 
     case. Isikoff quoted Tripp as confirming the incident but 
     disputing whether Willey had seemed unhappy about it.
       In the days that followed, Isikoff says, he was surprised 
     that the rest of the press largely ignored the article, 
     seeing it as just part of the detritus of the Smarmy Jones 
       Linda Tripp did not ignore it.
       ``Linda tends to view her role in things as much more 
     important than it is,'' says Jonah Goldberg, ``And she was 
     both thrilled and terrified by the play Isikoff gave her in 
     this piece. She thought the whole world was now watching her. 
     And she thought she also could now come to center stage with 
     what she knew about Monica.''
       In fact, according to Isikoff, from the moment he had first 
     talked to Tripp in March

[[Page H5254]]

     1997 about Willey, ``she was telling me that I had the right 
     idea but that I was barking up the wrong tree with Kathleen 
     Willey. She kind of steered me away from Willey.''
       At a meeting in a bar near the White House in April 1997, 
     Tripp again pushed Isikoff to consider a better story, one 
     about an intern and the president. But Isikoff remained 
     focused on Willey. Why? Because, he says, he knew that there 
     was a link from her to a story that was about more than sex: 
     the Jones trial. He also says that he made no bones about the 
     importance of that link to Tripp.
       For Tripp, the motive for filling that need was 
     unambiguous. ``I always told Linda that for her to have a 
     real book deal she had to get some of what she knew into a 
     mainstream publication of some kind,'' recalls Goldberg. ``I 
     drummed that into her. Without that, she was just another 
       According to Goldberg, it was soon after the Newsweek 
     article appeared that Tripp--at Goldberg's urging--went to a 
     Radio Shack store and bought a $100 tape recorder so that she 
     could begin gathering her proof.

                               The Tapes

       In October, the Goldbergs tried to advance the story by 
     getting Isikoff to listen to Tripp's tapes of Lewinsky 
     talking to her about sex with Clinton. Saying she was 
     Tripp's ``media adviser,'' as Isikoff recalls it, Goldberg 
     invited him to a meeting at Jonah Goldberg's apartment. 
     She told him he wouldn't regret it.
       According to all who were present (except Tripp, who would 
     not comment for this article), Isikoff was told Lewinsky's 
     name. Two tapes were on the coffee table. Lucianne offered to 
     queue up the first one.
       Isikoff declined.
       ``I knew that if I listened to these tapes I would become 
     part of the process, because I knew the taping was ongoing,'' 
     explains Isikoff, who also adds that he was in a hurry to get 
     to CNBC, where he was a paid Clinton sex scandal pundit.

                       get me something tangible

       But Isikoff heard enough of a description of what was on 
     the tape to request more. He wanted ``a tangible way to check 
     this out with some other source,'' recalls Jonah Goldberg. 
     ``And he needed more than just sex. He said he needed other 
     sources and he needed for this to relate to something 
     official.'' Isikoff confirms this conversation.
       To Isikoff, he was simply musing aloud about what would 
     make a legitimate Newsweek story. To the Goldbergs and Tripp, 
     he was writing out specs. And by the end of October, 
     Isikoff's hopes had been fulfilled on both counts.
       First, they produced something tangible. Lewinsky began 
     sending letters and one package to presidential secretary 
     Betty Currie at the White House, allegedly so that Currie 
     could pass them to the president. What was in that package? 
     Tripp and Goldberg told Isikoff it contained a lurid sex 
     tape. Goldberg then told Isikoff how to get copies of the 
     receipts for those letters and the package. It was easy--
     because the courier service employed by Lewinsky is owned by 
     Goldberg's brother's family.
       ``We told Linda to suggest that Monica use a courier 
     service to send love letters to the president,'' says 
     Lucianne Goldberg. ``And we told her what courier service to 
     use. Then we told Spikey [Isikoff] to call the service.'' 
     (Isikoff says he later found out that the service was 
     owned by Goldberg's brother's family, but that for him the 
     only issue was the fact that Lewinsky had, indeed, sent 
     the letters and, one case, a package that seemed like a 
     tape, according to the courier who delivered it to the 
     White House--and who was made available for Isikoff to 
     interview by the eager-to-be-helpful courier service.)
       As for something ``official,'' Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg 
     told Isikoff that Lewinsky, who was planning to move to New 
     York with her mother, was going to get a job there working 
     for U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson. In fact, Richardson 
     himself was going to meet with the lowly former intern at the 
     Watergate over breakfast in a few days to talk about the job, 
     Tripp and Goldberg reported. In other words, they contended, 
     the president was getting his girlfriend a government job.
       ``That was interesting enough that we sent a reporter--not 
     me, because I was now recognizable from all my TV stuff--to 
     stake out the Watergate for breakfast,'' says Isikoff.
       Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman waited from 7:00 until 11:30 
     a.m., But Richardson and Lewinsky never appeared. ``That 
     really worried my editors. . . . We didn't know that 
     Richardson had an apartment there and they were meeting 
     there,'' says Isikoff.
       It was at about this time--October 1997--that the new Paula 
     Jones legal team started getting anonymous calls from a woman 
     saying that Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky would be well 
     worth subpoenas. Each of what one member of the Jones team 
     estimates were three or four calls got increasingly less 
       Who made those calls?
       ``My mom didn't do it,'' Jonah Goldberg says. ``Linda did, 
     but I can tell you that she didn't get the idea on her own.''
       Lucianne Goldberg says she isn't sure Linda called them, 
     ``but it wouldn't surprise me, and it made sense, didn't 
       Did Lucianne encourage her to make the calls? ``Do you 
     think I had to?'' asks Goldberg.
       Did she encourage her? ``Not exactly, but, hell, I guess 
     you could say so.''
       What seems clear is that no one other than one of the 
     Goldbergs or Tripp would have had the knowledge or the motive 
     to have tipped off the Jones lawyers. And whoever made the 
     calls, they were persuasive enough that by just before 
     Christmas both Lewinsky and Tripp had been subpoenaed.
       ``That's when this heated up,'' says Isikoff. ``When I 
     found out they had been subpoenaed, I could see the perjury 
     possibilities and everything else. It was starting to be a 
     real story.''
       In short, the exact dynamic that had made the Willey tale a 
     publishable story for Isikoff--that it was part of the Jones 
     trial--had now apparently been engineered by the Goldberg-
     Tripp book-deal team. Moreover, those similarly orchestrated 
     ``receipts'' from the courier service gave Isikoff the 
     tangible proof he said he needed.
       ``I guess I'd like to think this was more a Goldberg 
     conspiracy than a right-wing conspiracy,'' Jonah concludes 
     when asked about this orchestration.

                       monica becomes hysterical

       According to the Goldbergs' accounts of the Lewinsky-Tripp 
     tapes and to Isikoff's account of the tapes he eventually 
     heard, when Lewinsky got her subpoena in December she became 
     hysterical. On the tapes her hysteria comes off as a fear of 
     how to decide whether to rat on the president or risk 
     perjury--a fear exacerbated by Tripp's declaration to her 
     that she, Tripp, was going to tell the truth about what 
     Lewinsky had told her about the relationship.
       As 1997 drew to a close, Isikoff says he knew he'd be 
     coming back from his Christmas vacation in January to what 
     night be a major story.

                           `clowns in a car'

       ``That first week in January,'' recalls Lucianne Goldberg, 
     ``we were kind of panicked. You had [Lewinsky] on the phone 
     to Linda . . . saying she didn't know what to do and that she 
     was gonna sign an affidavit saying she had never had any sex 
     with the president''--an affidavit that Lewsinsky did in fact 
     sign on January 7. ``And you had Linda worried about her own 
     testimony and about what Isikoff was going to do.''
       Goldberg says the Tripp was now worried enough to consult 
     Kirby Behre, the lawyer she had used when she had testified 
     in the Whitewater hearings. But when Behre (who declined all 
     public comment for this article) was told about the tapes, 
     his suggestion, according to Goldberg, shocked Tripp and 
     Goldberg: ``He told her he was going to go to Bob Bennett''--
     the president's defense lawyer in the Jones case--``. . . and 
     get Bennett to settle the Jones case and avoid all this.''
       In fact, Tripp and the Goldbergs wanted anything but a 
     settlement that would see Tripp's cameo role in history 
     evaporate. They were headed in the opposite direction. What 
     they had pushed from a tale about a presidential affair to a 
     story about a new witness in a civil suit they now wanted to 
     push to the next stop--a criminal case. ``We wanted a [new] 
     lawyer so that Linda could go to Ken Starr,'' explains 
     Lucianne Goldberg.
       By Friday, January 9, Goldberg had found James Moody, a 
     relatively unknown Washington attorney who had been active in 
     taxpayer rights and other conservative causes.

                          tripp goes to starr

       Why the rush for a new lawyer? ``Because we wanted someone 
     to get the tapes back from Behre so we could take them to 
     Starr,'' says Lucianne Goldberg.
       In fact, while Moody ended up getting the tapes back 
     quickly (apparently by Monday, January 12), even that wasn't 
     fast enough for Tripp. ``Linda,'' says Jonah Goldberg, ``was 
     in a frenzy.''
       ``I told her to call Starr Monday night,'' says Lucianne 
     Goldberg. ``She was afraid Isikoff was going to do a story 
     and she wanted to make sure who got to Starr first . . . 
     Neither of us wanted Starr to read about her in Newsweek. We 
     wanted to be at the center of it.''
       But didn't her going to Starr also insure that Isikoff 
     would have a story? ``Yes, that's true, too,'' says Goldberg 
     with a laugh. ``We knew this would never not be a story for 
     Spikey [Isikoff] once Starr had it.''
       ``Linda called Starr's people Monday night,'' Goldberg 
     continues. ``And after a few minutes they asked her where she 
     was, told her to stay there, and piled in a car and drove out 
     to her house. She told me it was like that Charlie Chaplin 
     movie or something with all those cops like clowns stuffed 
     into a car coming out to see her . . . We never knew they 
     would pounce like that.''
       Starr says that his staff spent that night and the next 
     day, Tuesday, January 13, debriefing Tripp.
       According to Goldberg--who was in contact with Tripp 
     through Wednesday night, January 14--Starr's lawyers and FBI 
     agents told Tripp that they needed more than was on her tapes 
     to prove both the president's alleged effort to get Lewinsky 
     to lie and Washington lawyer and Clinton friend Vernon 
     Jordan's supposed obstruction of justice, via his help 
     getting a job for Lewinsky. Their plan? They wanted Tripp to 
     meet with Lewinsky and wear a wire while she walked Lewinsky 
     through a conversation that they would script.
       Getting more about Jordan on tape was crucial for Starr. 
     Because his office had been established to investigate 
     Whitewater, his people had already concluded that extending 
     their jurisdiction to the Lewinsky affair required their 
     arguing that Jordan's role with Lewinsky paralleled his 
     suspected but unproven role in helping disgraced former

[[Page H5255]]

     Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell obtain lucrative 
     consulting assignments in exchange for Hubbell's remaining 
     silent about the Clintons and Whitewater.
       On Tuesday, Goldberg or Tripp (Goldberg and Isikoff won't 
     say who) called Isikoff and told him that Tripp had gone to 
     Starr and that Starr was planning to do his own taping of 
     Lewinsky. ``That call knocked my breath out,'' says Isikoff.
       On Wednesday, Isikoff got a full report from Goldberg 
     (according to both) and prepared to confront Starr's office 
     the next day with what he knew.

                               the sting

       Later that night, says Goldberg, Tripp told her that 
     ``Starr's people were shutting her down . . . she was being 
     moved and her phone number was being changed and all that.''
       Isikoff says that when he talked to Starr deputy Jackie 
     Bennett, Jr., on Thursday, Bennett begged him to wait until 
     Friday before tying to call Jordan, the White House, or 
     Lewinsky about his story. Why? Because Starr was not only 
     going to confront Lewinsky with the new tape his team had 
     just recorded of her and Tripp as they met in a dining room 
     at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City (in Arlington); they were 
     also going to try to get Lewinsky to wire herself and get 
     Jordan and maybe even the president on tape obstructing 
     justice. Isikoff says he agreed to hold off in exchange 
     for getting a full report on how the stings had gone. 
     Bennett refuses to comment on any discussion he had with 
     Isikoff, except to say that ``what Isikoff knew put us in 
     a difficult position.''
       Also on Thursday, Starr's deputies met in the afternoon 
     with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to request that 
     Attorney General Janet Reno expand Starr's authority beyond 
     Whitewater to include charges of an attempt to cover up 
     Lewinsky's affair with the president. Again, their hook to 
     Whitewater was Jordan's supposed role, a role that was murky 
     at best on the original Tripp tapes.
       Now, according to Bennett and to a Justice Department 
     official, the Starr people talked about their own tapes of 
     Tripp and Lewinsky, though no tapes were played at the 
     meeting with Holder.
       According to the Justice Department source, while Starr 
     deputy Bennett made much of Jordan's job hunt for Lewinsky, 
     he failed to mention what he knew from the earlier Tripp 
     tapes--that Jordan had begun offering that help at least a 
     month before Lewinsky was subpoenaed in the Jones case. 
     Bennett says he does not remember ``if I mentioned that.''
       Bennett does confirm that he mentioned repeatedly that 
     Newsweek was working on an article that would be public by 
     Sunday. ``This was meant as a way of explaining why we had to 
     act fast,'' says a Justice Department participant. ``But the 
     way he said it and kept saying it, it also was clear to us 
     that if we turned down the request, Newsweek would know about 
     that, too. We had no choice.''
       Another reason that Reno was in a bind was that under the 
     independent counsel law, Starr could have appealed a turndown 
     to the mostly conservative three-judge panel that had 
     appointed him in the first place. That probably would have 
     meant that Starr would have gotten his jurisdiction after 
     all, while Reno got a story in Newsweek saying she had 
     rejected it.
       On Friday afternoon, January 16, Reno approved the 
     expansion of Starr's jurisdiction.
       Also on Friday, Tripp met again with Lewinsky at the Ritz-
     Carlton in Arlington, where FBI agents and Starr deputies 
     descended on the former intern. They stayed with her until 
     late that night trying to get her--and later, her and her 
     lawyer, William Ginsburg (who was conferring with them by 
     telephone)--to agree to help them get Jordan and the 
     president on tape in exchange for immunizing her from a 
     perjury prosecution for having sworn in an affidavit in the 
     Jones case that she and Clinton had not had a sexual 
     relationship. No agreement was reached.

                          Starr Begs Newsweek

       That snag in dealing with Lewinsky forced Starr's people to 
     bet Isikoff to hold off until Saturday before trying to call 
     anyone whom his story would implicate. Any call by Isikoff to 
     the White House or to Jordan asking about the former intern 
     would kill any chance of Jordan or the president being stung 
     by her. ``You want to report what you know,'' Isikoff says. 
     ``But you don't want to influence what happens.'' Isikoff 
     agreed to wait until Saturday (his deadline was Saturday 
     evening), but admits, ``This was making me crazy. How was I 
     gonna reach Jordan on a Saturday?''
       It was also not clear on Friday that Newsweek was going to 
     run any story at all. ``New York was sounding like they 
     thought this wasn't enough,'' says Isikoff, referring to 
     Newsweek New York-based top editors.
       ``Friday night, Spikey called and told me there was some 
     problems,'' Goldberg recalls. ``But he said it looked like 
     they would to with it.''
       Soon after that call, Isikoff finally hears some of the 
     original tapes. According to Lucianne and Jonah Goldberg and 
     one source at Newsweek in a position to know, at 12:30 a.m. 
     on Saturday, Tripp's new lawyer, Moody, showed up at the 
     Newseek offices with two tapes that he had selected because, 
     he told the Newseek staffers, they most pertained to Jordan 
     and a possible cover-up.
       ``I had to fight with Moody until the last minute to let 
     Newsweek hear those tapes,'' says Goldberg. ``He just didn't 
     get it,'' Moody says he ``never played any tapes for 
     Newsweek,'' but declined to comment on the account by the 
     Goldbergs or the Newsweek source that he made the tapes 
     available for them to play.
       Lucianne Goldberg says that at her direction, Moody 
     selected the tapes that would most implicate Jordan and the 
     president in obstructing justice, because they contained the 
     non-sex material that Isikoff said he needed to publish a 
       Iskoff, along with Washington bureau chief Ann McDaniel, 
     deputy bureau chief Evan Thomas, and investigative 
     correspondent Daniel Klaidman, listened for four hours as 
     Lewinsky talked and cried and complained about a man whom she 
     called names like ``the big creep,'' but who she clearly 
     meant was the president. The sexual talk was explicit, and it 
     did not seem contrived.
       ``We were all pretty convinced,'' says Thomas. ``Within 
     five or ten minutes it was clear to everybody that this was 
     compelling stuff.''
       Nonetheless, Isikoff concedes that the material they 
     had hoped for about Jordan or the president being 
     complicit in an obstruction of justice just wasn't there.
       ``What we didn't have here was Monica saying, `Clinton told 
     me to lie,' '' says Isikoff. ``In fact there is one passage 
     where Linda, knowing the tape is going, says, `He knows 
     you're going to lie; you've told him, haven't you?' She seems 
     like she's trying to get Monica to say it. But Monica says 
     no.'' That, concludes Isikoff, ``made New York real queasy 
     when we told them.''
       Unknown to Isikoff, while he was listening to the tapes, 
     Tripp had been released by Starr's investigators so that she 
     could go home. Waiting for her there were Jones's lawyers--
     who were scheduled to question President Clinton the next 
     morning in a deposition. Starr would later tell me that he 
     did not know why she was released from her extensive 
     debriefing at that particular time.
       Thus, the president's criminal inquisitors, having just 
     finished with Tripp, had now made it possible for his civil 
     case opponents to be given ammunition with which to question 
     the president in his sworn testimony--from which Starr, in 
     turn, might then be able to extract evidence of criminal 
       And we now know that the next morning President Clinton was 
     questioned as closely about Monica Lewinsky as he was about 
     Paula Jones.
       On Saturday morning, Klaidman of Newsweek found out that 
     Starr had gotten authorization from the Justice Department to 
     expand his investigation to include Lewinsky. ``That tipped 
     me off the fence,'' says deputy Washington bureau chief 
     Thomas. ``Just that was a story.''
       Isikoff, Thomas, and Klaidman were now pushing New York to 
     publish. Meantime, Starr's people again begged Isikoff to 
     hold off, but for a few hours, then for another week.
       ``What followed,'' says Isikoff, ``was an incredible seven-
     hour dialogue. It went back and forth. I couldn't believe we 
     were still debating this when I've got to try to reach Vernon 


       At about 5:00 p.m. Newsweek chairman and editor in chief 
     Richard Smith decided to hold the story. Smith's decision, he 
     says, was based on three factors: an uneasiness with what 
     they had heard and not heard about Jordan on the tapes, their 
     inability to question Lewinsky directly, and an inclination 
     to take Starr up on his offer of waiting and not impeding the 
     investigation while also getting a better story. ``Hell, it's 
     not like this was the Bay of Pigs,'' says Isikoff, who argued 
     against delay. ``We don't have any obligation to work with 
     the government. This was as much a story about Starr as 
     anything else. And we knew that part cold.''
       ``We talked about just doing an item on the expanded 
     investigation [without naming Lewinsky], but we thought we 
     knew too much for that,'' says Smith. ``It wouldn't have been 
     leveling with our readers.''
       Goldberg says that she learned from Isikoff at about 6:00 
     that the story was killed. At 1:11 A.M. on Sunday, Internet 
     gossip columnist Matt Drudge (who the prior summer had 
     spilled the beans on his website when Isikoff's Willey story 
     had been delayed) sent out a bulletin: Newsweek had spiked an 
     Isikoff story about a presidential affairs with an intern.
       Drudge's report made Lewinsky radioactive. She could no 
     longer be used to sting Jordan or the president, and the 
     immunity negotiations here lawyer was having that night with 
     Starr abruptly ended.
       Who leaked to Drudge? Although Lucianne Goldberg concedes 
     readily that she took a call from Drudge that night and 
     confirmed everything that Drudge knew, she adamantly denies 
     being his original source and offers an elaborate recitation 
     of the circumstance and time of her conversation with Drudge 
     that evening.
       ``Besides,'' she adds, ``what Drudge reported wasn't really 
     complete; there was nothing about the sting.''
       Which is true, but it's also a giveaway, because if fact 
     Goldberg had no way of knowing about the planned sting of the 
     president and Jordan, which means that she seems a likely 
     source. Asked about that, Goldberg laughs and says, ``I'm 
     sticking to my story.''
       As for Drudge, he supplied a similarly detailed explanation 
     of why his source was not Goldberg.
       ``It would make sense for my mom to have talked to 
     Drudge,'' says Jonah Goldberg.

[[Page H5256]]

     ``She really was mad that Newsweek was killing it and she 
     didn't believe [Newsweek] would print it the next week. So, 
     she may . . . be afraid to admit it because the leak seemed 
     to blow up in Starr's face even though she had not way of 
     knowing that at the time.''
       Actually, the leak did work for Linda Tripp and the 
     Goldbergs. For it assured that the Newsweek story would be 
     anything but buried.

                             sunday gossip

       At 10:30 Sunday morning, William Kristol, the editor and 
     publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard (and Dan 
     Quayle's former chief of staff), who is a regular panelist on 
     ABC's Sunday morning show This Week with Sam Donaldson & 
     Cokie Roberts, became the first person to mention the intern 
     scandal on any outlet beyond Drudge. Toward the end of the 
     program, Kristol said: ``The story in Washington this 
     morning is that Newsweek magazine was going to go with a 
     big story based on tape-recorded conversations, which 
     [involve] a woman who was a summer intern at the White 
       Former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, also an ABC 
     pundit, interrupted and said, ``And Bill, where did it come 
     from--the Drudge Report?''
       As Kristol began to answer, Sam Donaldson jumped in, with 
     what would turn out to be one of the rare moments in the 
     whole intern affair of a TV reporter exercising good on-air 
     instincts: ``I'm not an apologist for Newsweek,'' Donaldson 
     said, drowning out Kristol with his trademark voice, ``but if 
     their editors decided they didn't have it cold enough to go 
     with, I don't think we can here.''
       ``I hadn't heard anything about Drudge or anything else 
     about this story,'' Donaldson would later recall. ``I just 
     decided we shouldn't go on our air with a story that Newsweek 
     had decided it couldn't go with.''
       But the story had now moved far beyond Drudge, and the race 
     was on to get there first.
       The principal contestants were Jackie Judd, a general 
     assignment correspondent for ABC, and Susan Schmidt of the 
     Washington Post, with Time and the Los Angeles Times also in 
     the hunt. What Judd and Schmidt had in common with Isikoff 
     was that they had been covering Whitewater--and Ken Starr and 
     his deputies--for years, when almost everyone else was 
     ignoring that beat. Schmidt recalls that the previous Friday 
     she had ``heard from sources in Starr's office something 
     about Vernon Jordan and coaching a witness.'' The Drudge 
     item, she says, gave her ``more direction.''
       ``By Tuesday mid-day, Sue Schmidt came to me with an 
     outline of the story,'' recalls Washington Post executive 
     editor Leonard Downie. ``We still waited late into the 
     afternoon and evening,'' he adds. ``It wasn't anything we 
     were missing as much as what would make us feel better. We 
     have a high threshold on private lives around here.''
       Downie and the Post's top editors stayed through the 
     evening, missing the deadline for the paper's first edition 
     at about 9:00 because they still weren't comfortable. Then, 
     says Downie, Peter Baker, Schmidt's reporting partner on this 
     beat, ``reached the wonderful Mr. Ginsburg, who gave us an 
     on-the-record quote about the investigation, including the 
     classic quote about the president either being a misogynist 
     or Starr having ravaged Monica's life.''
       The article finally ran in the second edition, using the 
     words ``sources'' or ``sources'' 11 times.
       Citing ``sources'' who could only be people in Starr's 
     office, the article's fifth paragraph said that Lewinsky can 
     be heard on Tripp's tapes describing ``Clinton and Jordan 
     directing her to testify falsely.''
       That is exactly the material that had been missing from the 
     tapes that Newsweek heard, which, in part, had caused the 
     magazine to hold its story, as Isikoff concedes. And, 
     remember, Tripp's lawyer had selected what he said were the 
     most incriminating tapes for Newsweek to hear that night.
       Which means that this damning material was either on the 
     new tapes that Tripp had just made of Lewinsky for Starr the 
     prior week, or it is the Starr side's extreme spin on the 
     tapes Newsweek heard.
       This is not a minor point: The charge that Lewinsky had 
     been instructed to lie was not only the linchpin of Starr's 
     expanded jurisdiction, but would also be the nub of any 
     impeachment action against the president--and the premise of 
     all of the front-page stories and hours of talk show dialogue 
     that would follow that speculated about impeachment. That 
     such charges would stem secondhand--from one person's talking 
     on a tape about what other people had said to her--is weak 
     enough. Weaker still is that the only tapes heard by any 
     reporters clearly didn't say that. In fact, they seemed to 
     say just the opposite. The tapes, if any, that do have 
     Lewinsky claiming she had been told to lie were based on a 
     script provided by prosecutors and not heard by any 
     independent party to verify if Lewinsky had said so, or if 
     she was led too far into saying it.

                            have that scotch

       Lanny Davis, then a White House counsel in charge of 
     dealing with press inquires related to the various 
     investigations of the president, recalls that at about 9:00 
     that Tuesday night, January 20, he returned a call to the 
     White House from Peter Baker of the Post: ``I told him he was 
     interrupting a good scotch. He said `You're gonna need that 
     scotch.' Then he laid it all out for me. It was 
       Davis drove back to the White House, where he and other top 
     aides assembled in White House Counsel Charles Ruff's office 
     and waited for a messenger to bring then the Post from its 
     loading dock a few blocks away. By the time the Post came out 
     on its website at 12:30 A.M., ``all hell broke loose on 
     my pager,'' Davis recalls. ``It was surreal. Everyone was 
     calling, and meanwhile Clinton is right below us in the 
     Oval [Office] with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] 
       Over at ABC, Jackie Judd's story was ready for the 11:30 
     P.M. Nightline broadcast, which meant she would have beaten 
     the Post. But Nightline host Ted Koppel, who was in Cuba 
     doing a special on the Pope's visit, decided to hold it 
     rather than shoehorn it in at the last minute.
       Later that night, Judd managed to get the story onto the 
     ABC radio network (as well as its overnight television news 
     show and its website) and then led with it on Good Morning 
     America the next morning--which is what caused Lucianne 
     Goldberg to whoop into the phone on January 21.
       From that point, says Bob Woodward, the Washington Post 
     reporter who teamed up with Carl Bernstein in Watergate, 
     there was ``a frenzy unlike anything you ever saw in 
     Watergate . . . We need to remember that for the first eight 
     or nine months of Watergate, there were only six reporters 
     working on it full time.''
       What follows is a log of the first--and most furious--three 
     weeks of that frenzy. It should be read with one often-over-
     looked reality in mind: All of it--every bulletin, every hour 
     of talk radio, every segment of cable news specials, every 
     Jay Leno joke, every website page, every Congressional 
     pronouncement--would be based on a woman looking for a book 
     deal who had surreptitiously taped some of her conversations 
     with a 23-year-old ``friend'' whom none of the reporters or 
     pundits had talked to.
     Day 1: Wednesday 1/21/98

                            the Speculators:

       Jackie Judd's 7:00 A.M. Good Morning America report is a 
     bombshell. Citing ``a source,'' Judd says Lewinsky can be 
     heard on a tape claiming the president told her to deny an 
     affair and that Jordan ``instructed her to lie.'' Again, 
     those can't be the tapes Tripp made on her own, because 
     Newsweek would have heard that.
       Switching to the pundits, ABC's Stephanopoulos, the former 
     Clinton aide, seconds a notion brought up five minutes 
     earlier by Sam Donaldson, saying: ``There's no question that 
     . . . if [the allegations] are true . . . it could lead to 
     impeachment proceedings.'' It has taken less than 70 
     minutes from the breaking of the story of an intern 
     talking on the phone for the discussion to escalate to 
     talk of impeachment.
       At 7:30, the show's newscaster says that ``two sources'' 
     have told ABC's Jackie Judd that both Jordan and the 
     president ``instructed her to lie under oath.'' Asked later 
     what happened in that half hour to double her sources, Judd 
     says, ``I think I was trying to be extra-careful the first 
     time. We actually had a lot of sources.''

                  Visit To A Museum, Then Payback Time

       For The New York Times, the intern story began the way 
     Watergate had: The Washington Post had caught the Paper of 
     Record asleep.
       ``Drudge was just not something on our radar screens,'' one 
     Times Washington reporter recalls. And while some in the 
     bureau had noticed Kristol's comment on This Week, they 
     hadn't paid much attention to it, much less allowed it to mar 
     the three-day Martin Luther King Day weekend.
       Worse, when the Times people awoke on Wednesday and saw the 
     front-page Post story or caught the news on Good Morning 
     America, there was little they could do to get an early start 
     on catching up. The office had arranged a special tour of a 
     new exhibit of old Times front pages at Washington's Corcoran 
     Gallery of Art, and two reporters would later recall that 
     there was pressure on them to turn out in good numbers. So 
     until about 10:00 that morning, most of the Time's talent was 
     on a museum tour.
       Not Jeff Gerth. He skipped the tour.
       In terms of being a sleuth, Gerth is more Isikoff than 
     Isikoff. Now 53, he has covered everything from organized 
     crime, to global business regulation, to campaign finance, to 
     food safety in his 21 years at the Times. And in 1992, he had 
     broken the first Whitewater story.
       Now, recalls another Times reporter, Gerth got ``hold of 
     his Ken Starr people and played a real guilt trip on them. 
     They'd just made him look bad and he was Mr. Whitewater.'' 
     (Gerth now refuses to comment on his sources, except to say 
     that ``you can imply what you want, but I always have 
     multiple sources.'' He adds: ``I didn't feel bad about 
     missing this because I was never interested in touching the 
     sex stories.'')
       Getting leaks from law enforcement officials--especially 
     information about prospective or actual grand jury 
     proceedings, where the leaks are illegal--is usually a cat-
     and-mouse process. The prosecutors know they are doing 
     something wrong, and they worry about whom they can trust. 
     You run a guess by someone. They answer vaguely but 
     encouragingly. You push a little bit more, and they let on a 
     bit more. Then you try someone else, again stretching what 
     you think you know with a guess or two to see if that

[[Page H5257]]

     person will confirm your suspicion by saying something like, 
     ``You're not far off.'' Then you go back to the first person 
     for confirmation. It's almost never as easy as it seems when 
     a story is published or broadcast that says, ``sources say.''
       But this morning, while he did not, he later asserted, 
     simply call one ``magic phone number'' and get it all, Gerth 
     had an easier, faster time of it. ``By about midday, Jeff had 
     a memo that was about as comprehensive as you could imagine, 
     which he kept supplementing,'' recalls Michael Oreskes, the 
     Times' Washington bureau chief. Gerth freely shared his memo 
     with everyone in the office.

                        all monica all the time

       At 6:00 p.m. the MSNBC Internet news service, which 
     beginning at 11:00 a.m. had headlined the Lewinsky story ``A 
     Presidential Denial,'' is now calling it ``Crisis at the 
     Top,'' with the sub-headline ``Sex allegations threaten to 
     consume White House.'' Meantime, MSNBC's sister cable-TV 
     channel is talking about the intern allegations almost 
     nonstop. For the next 100 days, the fledgling cable channel 
     would become virtually all Monica, all the time.

                         newsweek goes on-line

       The Post and ABC stories (plus a front-pager in the Los 
     Angeles Times that has almost as much information as the 
     Post) have now made a joke out of the idea that Isikoff's 
     story can hold until next week. So, at about 7:00 p.m., 
     Newsweek goes on-line.
       Isikoff's furiously typed story loads up everything he 
     knows. What's notable is that he now doesn't mention what he 
     later says was a key exchange on the tapes he heard, the 
     question-and-answer that had caused his editors to hold the 
     story: the fact that on those tapes Lewinsky answer, ``No,'' 
     when Tripp asks, ``He [the president] knows you're going to 
     lie. You've told him, haven't you?''

                            live from havana

       Each of the three broadcast network news anchors is live in 
     Havana for the Pope's visit, but the headline for each show 
     is Lewinsky--and the heart of all three reports features a 
     correspondent who, citing anonymous sources, has clearly been 
     given extensive information by Starr's office.

                            starr and leaks

       On April 15, during a 90-minute interview with Starr, I am 
     reminded of the kind of old-world straight arrow that he is. 
     Starr is the opposite of slick--which in this case means he 
     doesn't lie when asked a straight, if unexpected, question. 
     After he expresses disappointment with my insistence that our 
     conversation not be off the record or on background, I ask a 
     series of question not about his investigation, but about 
     discussions he or his deputies might have had with reporters. 
     I make clear that these questions are based not only on the 
     obvious fact that many of the stories about the investigation 
     seem to have only been able to have come from his office, but 
     also on what reporters or editors at six different news 
     organizations have told me and, in three cases, on documents 
     I have seen naming his office as a source for their reporting 
     about the Lewinsky allegations.
       Details of his answers are reported below. As a general 
     matter, in response to an opening ``Have you ever . . .?'' 
     question, Starr hesitates, then acknowledges that he has 
     often talked to various reporters without allowing his name 
     to be used and that his prime deputy, Jackie Bennett, Jr., 
     has been actively involved in ``briefing'' reporters, 
     especially after the Lewinsky story broke. ``I have talked 
     with reporters on background on some occasions,'' he says, 
     ``but Jackie has been the primary person involved in that. 
     He has spent much of his time talking to individual 
       Starr maintains that there was ``nothing improper'' about 
     him and his deputies speaking with reporters ``because we 
     never discussed grand jury proceedings.''
       If there was nothing improper, why hadn't he or Bennett 
     ever been quoted by name on the record?
       ``You'd have to ask Jackie,'' Starr replies.
       Aren't these apparent leaks violations of the federal law, 
     commonly referred to as ``rule 6-E,'' that prohibits 
     prosecutors from revealing grand jury information?
       ``Well, it is definitely not grand jury information, if you 
     are talking about what witnesses tell FBI agents or us before 
     they testify before the grand jury or about related 
     matters,'' he replies. ``So, it's not 6-E.''
       In fact, there are court decisions, (including one in early 
     May from the Washington, D.C., federal appeals court with 
     jurisdiction over this Starr grand jury) that have ruled 
     explicitly that leaking information about prospective 
     witnesses who might testify at a grand jury, or about 
     expected testimony, or about negotiations regarding immunity 
     for testimony, or about the strategy of a grand jury 
     proceeding all fall within the criminal prohibition. And 
     Starr himself has been quoted on at least one occasion saying 
     the same thing. On February 5, during one of his sidewalk 
     press conferences, Starr refused to comment on the Lewinsky 
     investigation's status. He couldn't talk, he said then on 
     camera, ``about the status of someone who might be a witness 
     [because] that goes to the heart of the grand jury process.''
       Moreover, whether or not the criminal law applies to these 
     discussions between reporters and Starr and his deputies, it 
     is clearly a violation of both Justice Department 
     prosecutorial guidelines and the bar's ethical code for 
     prosecutors to leak substantive information about pending 
     investigation to the press.
       What about that? I ask Starr. Was he conceding unethical 
     but not illegal leaks?
       Perhaps realizing that he has already conceded too much, 
     Starr reverts to a rationalization so stunning that two days 
     later I called his just-hired spokesman, Charles Bakaly, who 
     sat in on much of the Starr interview, to make sure I heard 
     it correctly. (Bakaly said that I had.)
       ``That would be true,'' Starr says, ``except in the case of 
     a situation where what we are doing is countering 
     misinformation that is being spread about our investigation 
     in order to discredit our office and our dedicated career 
     prosecutors. . . . I think it is our obligation to counter 
     that kind of misinformation . . . and it is our obligation to 
     engender public confidence in the work of this office. We 
     have a duty to promote confidence in the work of this 
       In other words, Starr is claiming a free pass. For even 
     assuming that his leaks are not illegal under 6-E--which, 
     again, is a huge assumption--he's saying that they are not 
     unethical either, because they are aimed at negating attacks 
     and promoting confidence in the work of his office. Which, of 
     course, could be said about any leak from any prosecutor that 
     attempts to show that an investigation is making progress in 
     going after the bad guys.
       Asked two days after the Starr interview about this 
     apparent loophole in the ethical prohibitions against leaks 
     (again, even assuming they are not illegal), Starr's deputy, 
     Bennett, says, ``It is true that Ken's view is that . . . the 
     public has a right to know about our work--to the extent that 
     it does not violate legal requirements.''
       As for why, if all of this is proper, Starr or he had not 
     been quoted by name on the record countering all this 
     misinformation, Bennett says, ``I think I have been quoted on 
        NEXIS check of all stories by major newspapers, magazines, 
     and network news organizations concerning the first month of 
     the Lewinsky story did not turn up any examples of Bennett 
     being quoted by name talking about the progress or 
     particulars of the investigation.
       As for the comprehensive network reports about the Lewinsky 
     investigation aired on the first night the story broke, Starr 
     confirms in our interview that Bennett had spent ``much of 
     the day briefing the press.'' But he asserts again that 
     Bennett had done nothing improper because his efforts were 
     directed at countering the impression that Starr's office had 
     improperly exceeded its jurisdiction or had mistreated 
     Lewinsky. In none of these reports is Bennett quoted by name.
       Asked if he had spoken to the network correspondents, or to 
     Schmidt of the Post, or to Gerth of the Times, Bennett said, 
     ``Ken has said what he said . . . but I am not going to 
     answer any questions about any particular conversations I had 
     with any members of the press. . . . I don't think it's any 
     of your business.''
       The reporters involved declined all comment on their 
     sources--which, of course, is what they should do if they 
     have promised their sources anonymity.

                         applying the pressure

       There is a purpose to these January 21 leaks beyond 
     glorifying Starr and embarrassing the president. On this day, 
     the day that the story breaks, Starr's people are again 
     negotiating with Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg. ``The 
     more they can make me feel like they have a strong case 
     without me,'' says Ginsburg, ``the more pressure they figure 
     I'll be under. And the same I guess is true for Vernon 
     Jordan. They want him to flip, too.''
       The most laughably lapdog-like work comes from NBC's David 
     Bloom who, throughout this story, would perform as a virtual 
     stenographer for Starr. In a report lasting about two 
     minutes, he uses the terms ``sources say'' five times and 
     ``law enforcement source'' twice, ending ominously with this: 
     ``One law enforcement source put it this way, quote, ` We're 
     going to dangle an indictment in front of her [Lewinsky] and 
     see where that gets us.' '' Bloom is clearly helping Starr 
     fulfill his duty to ``engender confidence in the work of'' 
     his office.
       CBS's Dan Rather and the network's chief White house 
     correspondent, Scott Pelley, are more circumspect. 
     Rather characterizes Clinton's comments on National Public 
     Radio and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as ``flat-out'' 
     denials, and he repeatedly emphasizes that none of the 
     allegations have been proven.
       At ABC, Sam Donaldson dissects what he sees as the 
     tentativeness of the president's denials. Then, Jackie Judd, 
     citing a ``source who has heard the tapes'' that Tripp made 
     at the Ritz-Carlton under the Starr people's direction (which 
     means at this point that only Starr's office can possibly be 
     the source), says that Lewinsky can be heard on the tapes 
     saying that ``Jordan instructed her to lie under oath.'' The 
     Starr people are clearly using one of the three reporters 
     they know best and trust the most (the other two being 
     Isikoff and the Post's Susan Schmidt) ``to engender public 
     confidence'' in their work--and to step up the pressure on 
     Lewinsky and Jordan.
       When asked specifically about these three reporters during 
     our interview, Starr acknowledges that his deputy, Bennett, 
     has talked ``extensively'' to each. He then refers me to 
     Bennett for details. Bennett refuses to

[[Page H5258]]

     comment on any talks he had had with the favored three. In 
     none of their reports is Bennett ever quoted by name.

                          Feeding the Furnace

       Twenty years ago a story of this scope would have had a 
     chance to catch a breath after the network evening newscasts. 
     The next round of coverage would not come until the morning 
     papers. Now it is only after the networks' evening news that 
     the story achieves maximum velocity. It's then that talk 
     television gets to use it to fill its need for the news that 
     is gold--the type that can generate ratings with inexpensive 
     talking heads rather than expensive reporters in the field.
       On CNN's Larry King Live, Evan Thomas of Newsweek leads off 
     with his description of the Lewinsky tapes he had heard.
       ``Our PR department decided to do a blitz on television and 
     get all of us out there,'' Thomas later explains. ``It's 
     something the newsweeklies always want to do nowadays--get 
     mentioned and get noticed--and in this story we really wanted 
     to be identified with it because it was our story. . . . You 
     need to be careful about television,'' adds Thomas. ``They 
     try to lure you into saying more than you know, into saying 
     something new. It's a trap, and after a few days I hated 
       Thomas tells a caller who asks how he can know the tapes 
     are legitimate that one of the reasons that Newsweek did not 
     run its story that weekend was that it could not authenticate 
     the tapes. That's a new explanation, and, if sincere, it 
     raises the question of why Newsweek went on-line today with 
     its story; for the magazine certainly can't have 
     authenticated the tapes since it heard them that Saturday 
     morning because it did not get to keep copies.
       Whatever these nits, King's show, which includes former 
     Clinton aides James Carville and Dee Dee Myers as well as 
     Ronald Reagan and George Bush press secretary Marlin 
     Fitzwater, does provide a good, lively introduction to the 
       Geraldo Rivera, on CNBC's Rivera Live, provides quite a bit 
     more. His guests include Paula Jones spokeswoman Susan 
     Carpenter McMillan; William Ginsburg, who for this hour is in 
     his ``I-can't-say-anything'' mode; a Newsweek editor named 
     Jon Meacham (apparently one of Thomas's TV-blitz 
     squad people), who had not heard the Lewinsky tapes but is 
     on the show to talk about them anyway and does so happily; 
     and one Dolly Browning, who has written a novel (agented 
     by Lucianne Goldberg), which is described as a 
     fictionalized version of her own long affair with Bill 
     Clinton. Add three more lawyer-pundits and Rivera (who 
     also has a law degree), and you have a kind of dinner 
     party conversation from hell, in which any and all variety 
     of truth, speculation, fiction, and ax-grinding are thrown 
     together for the viewing public to sort out for 
       Over at MSNBC, we find The Big Show with Keith Olbermann, 
     which features much the same mixture but with a more 
     sarcastic and less intelligent host. The blitzing Newsweeker 
     here is Howard Fineman, the magazine's chief political 
     correspondent. According to Thomas and Isikoff, Fineman 
     hadn't even known about the Lewinsky story until after Drudge 
     leaked it, much less heard the tapes, a point Fineman later 
     concedes to me.
       ``We have heard some of the tapes,'' Fineman begins, not 
     telling his viewers how royal his use of ``we'' really is. 
     After describing what everyone else by now has said is on 
     them, he adds something new, revealing that ``we'' have 
     ``confirmed, apparently, the president's own voice on Monica 
     Lewinsky's answering machine. We haven't heard that tape, but 
     we know pretty authoritatively that apparently the 
     president's voice is on her tape machine. . . . If true, how 
     idiotic of the President of the United States,'' Fineman 
       Nearly for months later, as of this writing, there is no 
     confirmation of that tape, let alone confirmation that, if 
     there is one, it incriminates the president in anything.
       ``Television is definitely more loosey-goosey than print,'' 
     Fineman later explains. ``And I have loosened up myself, 
     sometimes to my detriment . . . and said things that were 
     unfair or worse. . . . It's like you're doing your first 
     draft with no layers of editors and no rewrites and it just 
     goes out to millions of people.''
       Within a week, Fineman would become a regular on-air 
     nighttime and weekend analyst for NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC for an 
     annual fee that he says is ``in the ballpark'' of $65,000. 
     That's about 40 percent of his day-job Newsweek salary for 
     what he estimates to be 5 to 10 percent of the time he 
     works for the magazine.
       ``We didn't let our reporters actively covering this go on 
     television, except for Bob [Woodward], who essentially talked 
     about Watergate,'' The Washington Post's Downie later says. 
     They're supposed to be reporters, not people giving spin or 
     expressing a point of view. And if I were running Time or 
     Newsweek I would have the same view.''
       ``Len and I have a different view on that,'' counters 
     Newsweek editor in chief Richard Smith, who also notes that 
     ``the people on our staff who were really in the know--
     Isikoff, McDaniel, Thomas--were among the most sober, 
     thoughtful voices you heard. But you can find people in our 
     organization or any organization that, given the voracious 
     maw that electronic journalism has become, were tempted to 
     say more than they knew.''
       Another Olbermann guest is the NBC colleague Tim Russert, 
     the NBC Washington bureau chief and Meet The Press host. 
     ``One of his best friends told me today,'' says Russert, 
     referring to the president, ``if this is true, he has to get 
     out of town.' . .  Whether it will come to that, I don't 
     know, and I don't think it's right or fair to be in the 
     speculation game.''
       But talk TV is the speculation game. So, after taking a 
     breath, Russert continues: ``But I do not underestimate 
     anything happening at this point. The next 48 to 72 hours are 
       Olbermann's MSNBC show, which runs from 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. 
     eastern time, debuted last October. A marquee newscaster at 
     the ESPN cable sports network, Olbermann had been lured by 
     big bucks and the promise of aggressive promotion that would 
     put him and MSNBC--the Microsoft-NBC joint venture challenge 
     to CNN--on the map. Now, as his show wraps on this first 
     night of the scandal, his procedures are already talking 
     among themselves in the control room about using the intern 
     scandal to birth a whole new show called White House in 
     Crisis. That show would debut at 11:00 on February 3. And 
     MSNBC officials would later make no bones of the fact that 
     with that show, and with Olbermann's 8:00 p.m. show and, 
     indeed, with the entirety of their-talk-news daytime 
     programming, they were hell-bent on using the intern scandal 
     to do for their entire network what the Iranian hostage 
     crisis had done for a half-hour ABC program called Nightline 
     in 1979.
       Indeed, MSNBC's use of the alleged intern scandal was 
     endemic to how all-24 hour cable news networks and all talk 
     radio had come to use such topics in the late 1990s. For 
     these talk machines, the subject matter isn't simply a 
     question of bumping circulation a bit for a day or a week, 
     the way it is for traditional newspapers or magazines or of 
     boosting ratings for a part of a half-hour show or an hour 
     magazine program the way it is for network television. Rather 
     it's a matter of igniting a rocket under the entire revenue 
     structure of the enterprise.
       Thus, while the three broadcast networks' evening news 
     ratings increased a total of about six percent in the week 
     beginning on this day (January 21), MSNBC's average rating 
     for its entire 24-hour day--a day when almost all of its 
     coverage was devoted to the intern scandal--increased by 131 
     percent. Which meant that its revenue from advertising (which 
     is the only revenue that varies from week to week in cable 
     television) would also jump 131 percent if it could sustain 
     that increase.
     Day 2: Thursday 1/22/98

                             not watergate

       The Times gets up off the mat with a comprehensive page-one 
     report that leads with the president's denial--then details 
     the material on the tapes. Most of the country's other 
     newspapers use information from the Times and The Associated 
     Press, which publishes a less complete story.
       What all the stories have in common is that none is based 
     on firsthand reporting. It is all the prosecutors' or other 
     lawyers' (``sources'') rendition of what witnesses or 
     potential witnesses have said, are saying, or might say.
       ``The big difference between this and Watergate,'' says Bob 
     Woodward is that in Watergate, Carl [Bernstein] and I went 
     out and talked to people whom the prosecutors were ignoring 
     or didn't know about. . . . In fact, that's what Watergate 
     was all about--the government not doing its job when it came 
     to prosecuting this case. . . . And we were able to look 
     these people in the eye and decide if they were credible and 
     get the nuances of what they were saying. . . . Here, the 
     reporting is all about lawyers telling reporters what to 
     believe and write.''

                           today fights back

       After being bested by Jackie Judd and Good Morning America 
     yesterday, the Today show is fighting back. One advantage the 
     show has is NBC's contract with Newsweek's Isikoff. Plus, 
     they have snagged Drudge. But first we hear from Tim Russert, 
     who declares: ``I believe [impeachment] proceedings will 
     begin on the Hill if there is not clarity given by the 
     president over the next few weeks.''
       Then cohost Matt Lauer peppers Drudge with questions about 
     his journalistic standards. Then he demands, ``Are you at all 
     concerned that you've made a mistake here?''
       Drudge responds by hurling another sleaze ball: ``Not at 
     all. As a matter of fact, I have reported that there's a 
     potential DNA trail that would tie Clinton to this young 
       What Drudge is referring to is his report on the Web the 
     day before about a semen-stained dress--which is something 
     Lucianne Goldberg later told me she had heard about from 
     Tripp and had passed on to Drudge and some other reporters.
       Lauer asks for more. ``You say Monica Lewinsky has a piece 
     of clothing that might have the president's semen on it,'' he 
     says. ``What evidence do you have of that?''
       ``She has bragged . . . to Mrs. Tripp, who has told this to 
     investigators, it's my understanding,'' says Drudge.
       Next up is Isikoff (who has already appeared in the first 
     half hour). Lauer can't let the dress story die. He demands 
     to know if Isikoff ``has heard anything'' about the dress, or 
     if he has any confirmation of its existence. Isikoff tries to 
     brush him off: ``I have not reported that, and I am not going 
     to report that until I have evidence that it is, in fact, 

[[Page H5259]]

       Lauer doesn't let go. ``You're not telling me whether 
     you've ever heard it,'' he persists. ``I've heard lots of 
     wild things, as I am sure you have,'' Isikoff replies, 
     clearly frustrated. ``But you don't go on the air and blab 
       Asked later why he had given Drudge the opportunity to air 
     any unconfirmed rumors live on national television, let alone 
     pressed him about the most sordid one out there, Lauer says, 
     ``Because that story was out there. People were starting to 
     talk about it.'' As for why he hectored Isikoff about 
     Drudge's dress rumor, Lauer says, ``I was really just trying 
     to get him to debunk it, not substantiate it. That's all I 
     was doing.''
       In a moment rich enough an irony for a remake of the movie 
     Network, Katie Couric followed Lauer's semen interviews about 
     an hour later with a segment featuring a child psychologist 
     explaining how to help our children ``make sense'' of ``the 
     Clinton sex scandal.''
       Meanwhile, at ABC's Good Morning America, the pundits, 
     including George Stephanopoulos and Sam Donaldson, bat around 
     all manner of rumors and leaks--including a dress about which 
     ``there are all sorts of reports on the Internet'' 
     (Donaldson), sexually explicit tapes, and the fact that the 
     president admitted to having ``an affair'' with Gennifer 
     Flowers in his Paula Jones deposition (something also 
     mentioned on NBC). The only guest who stays on the straight 
     and narrow is legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
       ``I do have an m.o.,'' Toobin explains later. ``These cases 
     really come down to facts . . . and facts tend to be in short 
     supply at the beginning of a story like this. So I just try 
     to emphasize the variety of options based on the factual 
     scenarios. . . . It's more about journalism than the law, 
     because journalism [asks] about facts. . . . The problem,'' 
     Toobin continues, ``is that if, for example, you engage in a 
     . . . long discussion about the legal elements of obstruction 
     of justice, you are a presupposing that there was an 
     obstruction of some kind. . . . A discussion about the 
     elements of impeachment presupposes that there's some 
     relevance to an impeachment discussion. Worst of all,'' he 
     concludes, ``all of the Lewinsky discussions were based on 
     the one hundred percent certainty that they had a sexual 
     relationship, and there is pressure in that direction because 
     it makes the discussion interesting.''

                             out of havana

       The network evening newscasts have left Cuba and the Pope 
     behind; the anchors are now reporting from Washington (NBC 
     and CBS) or New York (ABC).
       ``First we heard that Brokaw was going back,'' recalls 
     CBS's Dan Rather. ``Then we heard Jennings was . . . clearing 
     out . . . I truly wanted to stay there and report on the 
     Pope, but I got the distinct impression [from his bosses in 
     New York] that if I stayed another minute, I would have been 
     there all alone and without a job. I might as well have just 
     stayed here forever with Castro.''

                              cbs's scoop

       For all of Rather's purported reluctance, CBS News now 
     begins to emerge as a place for unexciting but important 
     scoops. Tonight, White House correspondent Scott Pelley 
     reports that the president's personal secretary has been 
     subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury and that FBI 
     agents had gone to her home last night. Pelley is also the 
     first to report that Secret Service records indicate that 
     Lewinsky visited the White House ``as recently as last 

              `the biggest day in the clinton presidency'

       On the Nightly News, NBC White House correspondent Claire 
     Shipman cites ``mounting circumstantial evidence--messenger 
     receipts [the ones created by Lucianne Goldberg's brother's 
     family's courier service] . . . or reports of the president's 
     voice on the answering machine of Lewinsky.''
       NBC caps its report with a discussion between Tom Brokaw 
     and Tim Russert. ``Tim, tomorrow [Friday, January 23] is the 
     biggest day of the Clinton presidency,'' Brokaw declares. 
     Whereupon Russert notes that the key event of the big day--
     Lewinsky's scheduled deposition in the Jones case--is now 
     likely to be postponed, which it was.

                         now, it's 24-48 hours

       Russert is nothing if not consistent. Yesterday he declared 
     that the president had 48-72 hours to give their country a 
     complete explanation. Now on NBC's sister network, CNBC, he 
     tells Geraldo Rivera that the president ``basically has the 
     next 24 to 48 hours to . . . talk to the country, either 
     through a press conference or a news interview and explain 
     exactly what happened, what kind of relationship he had.''
       ``I was only reporting the state of mind of people at the 
     White House,'' Russert later contends. ``Even the president, 
     in those first few days, said he would provide answers sooner 
     rather than later.''

                     brendan sullivan to the rescue

       Over at Larry King Live, Newsweek's Evan Thomas has 
     apparently forgotten his own worry about reporters trying too 
     hard to make news on television. ``We understand Brendan 
     Sullivan''--the famed Washington lawyer who represented 
     Oliver North, among others, and is a partner at the firm 
     where Clinton defense lawyer David Kendall is also a 
     partner--``is mastermining a legal team'' for the president, 
     Thomas tells King. If so, as of this writing, he has never 
       ``That was just wrong,'' Thomas concedes later. ``Brendan 
     may have an informal role,'' he adds. ``But how are you ever 
     gonna prove it?''
     Day 3: Friday 1/23/98

                          Gennifer And Monica

       The Washington Post publishes a story headlined ``Flowers 
     Feels Vindicated By Report; Similarities Seen in 
     Relationships.'' The story is based on the false leak that 
     the president has now acknowledged an ``affair'' with 
     Flowers, rather than the one encounter that it turns out the 
     president did admit to in his deposition. (This exaggeration 
     of what the president actually admitted to--not of what might 
     have actually happened--will pollute most subsequent accounts 
     of the deposition.) The paper also runs an account of the 
     continued sparring between Starr's office and Lewinsky lawyer 
     William Ginsburg. It's full of anonymous sources from Starr's 
     side and the on-the-record Ginsburg on Lewinsky's side. 
     ``They leak and I patch,'' Ginsburg asserts later.

                              `Out There'

       The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (which is a good barometer of 
     mainstream city newspapers outside the media hothouses of 
     Washington, New York, and Los Angeles) leads with a story, 
     ``From News Services,'' that--by definition in a situation 
     like this--vacuums up every leak and rumor about the 
     investigation and the Lewinsky-Starr negotiations.
       Bob Woodward would later say that print had done a much 
     better job with this story than television because ``it has 
     the time to check things out and get it right.'' He's 
     generally right about papers with their own national 
     reporters, like The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, 
     the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and The New York Times. But 
     today, as on most days, the other papers--which now mostly 
     use news services and wire reporters to disseminate national 
     news--gobble up the confirmed and unconfirmed from everyplace 
     else, print and television.
       It is not a pretty picture.
       And it's a major manifestation of the virus that will 
     afflict this story: A rumor or poorly sourced and unconfirmed 
     leak aired or printed in one national medium ricochets around 
     the country until it becomes part of the national 
     consciousness. In short, once it's ``out there,'' it's really 
     out there.

                          The Missouri Interns

       Today's Post-Distpatch rumor bazaar is supplemented by the 
     one kind of national story that most newspapers still produce 
     with their own reporters and with parody-like uniqueness: the 
     classic ``local angle.'' In this case, it's a piece headlined 
     ``Missouri, Illinois Interns Are Fully Briefed on Pitfalls 
     of Job.'' It's about how interns at the two state 
     legislatures are cautioned about being wowed by ``people 
     of influence and charisma.''

                        Inside Ken Starr's Mind

       On the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, Phil Jones reports 
     that ``two sources familiar with the independent counsel's 
     investigation tell CBS News that Kenneth Starr is, quote, 
     `absolutely convinced that Monica Lewinsky was telling the 
     truth when she was recorded by her friend Linda Tripp.' ''

                               The Dress

       ABC's Peter Jennings opens World News
       Tonight with this introduction: ``Today, someone with 
     specific knowledge of what it is that Monica Lewinsky says 
     really took place between her and the president has been 
     talking to ABC's Jackie Judd.''
       Following this buildup, Judd reports: ``The source says 
     Monica Lewinsky claims she would visit the White House for 
     sex with Mr. Clinton in the early evening or early mornings 
     on the weekends, when certain aides who would find her 
     presence disturbing were not at the office. According to the 
     source. Lewinsky says she saved, apparently as some kind of 
     souvenir, a navy blue dress with the president's semen strain 
     on it. If true, this could provide physical evidence of what 
     really happened.''
       This source could be someone who has heard the tapes. It 
     could even be Linda Tripp. But it's not. Although Judd would 
     not comment on her source, Lucianne Goldberg told me that she 
     herself is the source for this Jackie Judd report and for 
     others that would follow. And she claims she heard all this 
     from Linda Tripp, but is not sure that any of it is on a 
     tape. (The Newsweek people who heard the tapes say it is not 
     on what they heard.) In fact, Goldberg is not sure that Tripp 
     said Lewinsky had talked about having saved a dress, as 
     opposed to a dress simply having been stained. ``I might have 
     added the part about it being saved,'' Goldberg told me.
       We can assume that Goldberg is telling the truth that she's 
     the source because of what Judd reports next:
       ``ABC News has obtained documents that confirm that 
     Lewinsky made efforts to stay in contact with the president 
     after she left the White House. . . . These are bills, ``she 
     continues, holding some papers up to the camera, ``from a 
     courier service which Lewinsky used at least seven times 
     between October 7 and December 8.''
       Yes, the courier service--the one owned by Goldberg's 
     brother's family. How else but from Goldberg could Judd have 
     obtained those handy records?

                      Stop Us Before We Kill Again

       Every two or three days throughout the reporting of this 
     alleged scandal, the press seems to stop, take a breath, and 
     flagellate itself, as if to say to its audience, ``Stop us 

[[Page H5260]]

     before we kill again.'' Much of it, including a piece by 
     ABC's Cynthia McFadden and a special on CNN moderated by 
     Jeff Greenfield, would be quite good. Much of it would be 
     quite the opposite.
       For example, minutes after Judd's scoop, Jennings 
     introduces Tom Rosensteil of the Pew Charitable Trusts' 
     Project for Excellence in Journalism.
       Jennings: ``How do you think the media is doing, Tom?''
       Rosensteil: ``So much of what we have seen in the last 
     three days is speculation, rumor, innuendo.''
       Jennings: ``Let me say . . . that I think the press has 
     been pretty good on saying repeatedly these are allegations. 
     Would you have us ignore them?''
       Rosensteil: ``No. . . . But we have reporters go on and 
     characterize secondhand what is on the tapes. . . . We've had 
     reporters go on and say that the president has 48 hours to . 
     . . put the scandal behind him.''
       Jennings: ``Okay, Tom Rosensteil, thanks very much. 
     Critical of the press. Part of his job.''

                      a weakness for 24-year-olds

       Oldberman's Big Show at 8:00 features a guest who says. 
     ``Maybe if he stood . . . up there and said, `I'm sorry. I 
     have a weakness for 24-year-olds,' he might . . . survive 
       The expert: Watergate ex-con John Ehrlichman.

                           four other interns

       Geraldo Rivera hosts the usual melange, who trade all 
     variety of wild theories. He calls them his ``cast,'' and 
     they include Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones's lawyer, and some 
     other lawyers, one of whom is Ann Coulter, a Rivera regular 
     described as a conservative ``constitutional law attorney.'' 
     Asked by Rivera if she thinks it is ``sleazy'' that Lewinsky 
     had been questioned for ``eight to nine hours without an 
     attorney present,'' Coulter counters matter-of-factly that it 
     is not as bad as ``the President of the United States using 
     her to service him, along with four other interns.''
       What's curious about the Rivera show is the way it uses its 
     NBC bloodline to combine this kind of rollicking garbage with 
     the more serious contributions of the network's newspeople. 
     Mixed in with the screaming and smearing from Coulter and the 
     others are live reports from White House correspondent 
     Shipman and even taped bites from Tom Brokaw.
       It's a fascinating display of corporate synergy. Or perhaps 
     it is a suicidal, long-term cheapening of a great brand name. 
     True, the high-low mix helps ratings short-term; but if your 
     business plan as a media organization is to be a cut above 
     Drudge--and it has to be, because anyone can be Drudge--how 
     can this be a good long-term business strategy?
       Asked later if she minded being sandwiched in that night 
     between Rivera, talking about the president's ``alleged 
     peccadilloes,'' and Coulter, talking about those ``four other 
     interns,'' Shipman says, ``It's true that you get a different 
     style on NBC with Brokaw than with Olbermann or Geraldo, but 
     I think Geraldo does a pretty good job of separating out the 
     rumor from the fact. He's very smart and I am not at all 
     uncomfortable with his role at NBC.''
       Do the NBC and Brokaw brand names get hurt by mixing them 
     with Geraldo? ``Geraldo does what he does,'' Brokaw says. 
     ``He doesn't arrive in the guise of someone who is going to 
     be a traditional mainstream reporter. . . . And the public 
     is very good at telling the difference. They have a good 
     filter on this stuff.''
       ``In the case of Claire or Tom, they're being reporters on 
     Nightly News and being reporters on Geraldo,'' says NBC News 
     president Andrew Lack later. ``The shows have different 
     flavors, but as long as they don't change their acts, I'm not 
     Day 4: Saturday 1/24/98

                           the souvenir dress

       The Lucianne Goldberg-Jackie Judd semen dress story is 
     spreading. The front page of the New York Post blares, 
     ``Monica's Love Dress,'' with the declarative subhead 
     ``Exintern Kept Gown as Souvenir of Affair.'' The story 
     quotes ``sources.''
       ``She Kept Dress,'' echoes the Daily News.
       Some papers across the country also ran a United Press 
     International wire service story, sent out the night before, 
     saying that ABC has quoted an unnamed source saying, 
     ``Lewinsky saved a navy blue dress stained with President 
     Clinton's semen.'' So now we have a source not saying that 
     that is what Lewinsky says, but just plain stating it.

                        lewinsky not `squeezed'

       Schmidt of The Washington Post does stenography for the 
     prosecutors. Citing ``sources close to Starr,'' she writes 
     that Lewinsky's ten-hour session in Arlington with Starr's 
     deputies and the FBI wasn't really a harrowing encounter, 
     after all. It only took that long, Schmidt writes, because 
     Lewinsky let it drag on.
       This kind of leak from Starr's shop clearly falls under the 
     category of what Starr later contends were ``attempts by us 
     to counter the spread of misinformation.''
       In fact, in our interview he even cites ``correcting 
     allegations about our mode of interrogating a particular 
     witness'' as an example of the kind of press briefing Bennett 
     had undertaken. But as an attempt to affect public 
     perception--and a potential jury's perception--it is also a 
     clear violation of Justice Department guidelines and the 
     lawyer's code of professional responsibility.


       At 6:00 p.m. on this Saturday evening, CNN breaks into its 
     regular programming with a bulletin. Wolf Blitzer, standing 
     on the White House lawn, says, ``Despite the president's 
     public and carefully phrased public denials, several of his 
     closest friends, and advisers, both in and out of the 
     government, now tell CNN that they believe he almost 
     certainly did have a sexual relation[ship] with . . . 
     Lewinsky, and they're talking among themselves about the 
     possibility of a resignation . . .'' Mark this moment--about 
     6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 24--as the height of the 
       ``Every one of us senior advisers were sitting there . . . 
     in the White House having a meeting to prepare to go on the 
     Sunday talk shows,'' Clinton aide Paul Begala later recalls, 
     ``and we heard Wolf outside saying we were talking about 
     resignation . . . It was pure bullshit. And we all went out 
     there and yelled at him.''
       But Blitzer had been careful to say he was referring to 
     Clinton friends, in and out of the government, not just to 
     the White House group Begala is talking about. And with all 
     the media tornadoes swirling about concerning other women, a 
     smoking gun--semen dress, and the like, it should have been 
     no surprise that some of the president's friends, especially 
     those outside the immediate White House group working on 
     fighting the storm, would at least ``talk about'' 

                         The `Come-Hither Look'

       Just after the Biltzer resignation-talk story, CNN produces 
     a 10- or 12-second video clip from its archives that shows 
     the president embracing Lewinsky. She is in a crowd at a 
     White House lawn reception. It's the first picture of the two 
     of them together, and it will be aired hundreds of times in 
     the weeks to follow, usually in slow motion.
       ``I thought that showing it once was okay, but that after 
     that we should have shown it in context,'' CNN/US president 
     Richard Kaplan says later. ``Clinton always embraces people 
     and he must have embraced a hundred people just that way at 
     that event . . . I told our people to show it in context.''
       So how come we still have only seen this isolated embrace? 
     I ask Kaplan two months after it was first aired, ``I don't 
     know,'' he says. ``I told them not do it. I just don't 
       Tomorrow, in its new issues, Newsweek will make even more 
     of the picture. Evan Thomas will pen an article that tells 
     readers to ``look closely at those video clips. There is a 
     flirty girl in a beret, gazing a little too adoringly at the 
     president--who in turn gives her a hug that is just a bit too 
       ``What Newsweek wrote was just bullshit,'' Kaplan asserts. 
     ``There's nothing special about the embrace.''
       ``Any criticism of that is completely full of shit,'' 
     counters Thomas. ``All over Washington you could just feel 
     people reacting to that picture. She had that come-hither 

                             Ratings Heaven

       According to MSNBC communications director Maria Battaglia, 
     the fledgling cable network scores its highest ever full-day 
     rating (outside of its Princess Diana coverage) today. By her 
     estimate, ``ninety-five percent of our coverage was the 
     scandal.'' The stars are Newsweek pundits Isikoff and 
     Jonathan Alter, who has a contract with NBC and its cable 
     networks to produce pieces and provide commentary.
     Day 5: Sunday 1/25/98

         `special assistant to the president for b--- j---'???

       At 6:00 a.m., Time magazine director of public affairs 
     Diana Pearson reports for work. Pearson, who had recently 
     been lured away from Newsweek, is one of a new breed of in-
     house magazine marketing people. Her job: to get Time 
     mentioned. Her main tool: the press release she finishes at 
     dawn every Sunday morning that touts the issue that went to 
     press late the night before. She then faxes it to newspapers 
     and television networks, making sure that it reaches the TV 
     people in time to be talked about on the Sunday shows.
       This morning she is working with what Time managing editor 
     Walter Isaacson later tells me ``is our crash effort to catch 
     up to Newsweek.''
       She reads through Time's piece and decides, as she later 
     puts it, that ``the most catchy item, and one thing we had 
     that seemed to be new,'' is an unsourced claim buried in 
     Time's exhaustive report, in which Lewinsky reportedly told 
     Tripp that if she ever moved back to the White House from the 
     Pentagon, she would be ``Special Assistant to the President 
     for blow jobs.'' So, she makes it the headline of her press 
       ``I have never seen this,'' Isaacson says when asked about 
     this press release five weeks later. ``But I have heard about 
     it, and can tell you that that should not have been the 
     headline. . . . We've now taken careful steps,'' he adds, 
     ``to make sure that all press releases are cleared by a top 
     editorial person.''
       Five weeks after she penned the release, Pearson says that 
     ``in retrospect it probably wasn't representative of the 
     story.'' She also says that ``there has been no change in the 
     press release procedure. No one sees them after I do them 
     Sunday morning.''

                         Exhaustive, But . . .

       Time's package of stories is, indeed, not well represented 
     by that tawdry press release. Fabulously written, 
     particularly the

[[Page H5261]]

     main story by senior editor Nancy Gibbs, it raises questions 
     from all sides and touches all bases--from Ken Starr's 
     tactics, to Vernon Jordan's role, to Lewinsky's bio, to Linda 
     Tripp's motives, to the relevant legal issues. It is all done 
     in a better, more understandable form than any other 
     publication, including, ironically, Newsweek, which still has 
     so much to report from the tapes that its package seems 
     overwhelmed and disorganized.
       ``You can cover a lot of sins and reporting gaps with Nancy 
     Gibbs,'' Time Inc. editor in chief Norman Pearlstine explains 
       ``A role of a newsweekly,'' continues Pearlstine, in what 
     many of his more aggressive reporters would view as an 
     obvious rationalization, ``usually can't be to make news the 
     way Newsweek did. . . . The more traditional role is that of 
     synthesis, analysis, and writing. And for that I'll take a 
     Nancy Gibbs over any investigative reporter in America. . . . 
     Remember,'' he adds, ``that in the beginning [Time founder] 
     Henry Luce didn't even think we needed reporters, just 
     writers who could synthesize what others were reporting . . . 
     which for this story in particular is what I think readers 
     really needed.''
       True enough. But one could argue that, instead of a filter, 
     Time applied a shovel to reporting what was ``out there'' 
       About five weeks after the issue appeared, I asked 
     Pearlstine to read the following lines of Gibbs's story:
       ``Monica Lewinsky's story was so tawdry, and so 
     devastating, it was hard to know which was harder to believe: 
     that she would make up such a story, or that it actually 
     might have happened. Without proof, both possibilities were 
     left to squirm side by side. . . . As each new tape surfaced, 
     each new detail arose, of Secret Service logs showing late-
     night visits when Hillary was out of town; of presents sent 
     by courier; of a dark dress saved as a souvenir, spattered 
     with the president's DNA, the American public began stripping 
     Bill Clinton of the benefit of the doubt.''
       Didn't that last sentence, for all its opening qualifiers, 
     simply throw in a whole bunch of unproved allegations 
     unfairly? I asked Pearlstine. ``Yes, I do have a problem with 
     it. It seems to have just taken everything out there and 
     treated it as fact,'' he said, through he added that he 
     wanted to confer with those who had worked on the story and 
     get back to me.
       Three days later, Pearlstine sent a letter attaching a 
     longer letter from Time managing editor Walter Isaacson 
     defending the paragraphs. Pearlstine said the Isaacson letter 
     made him more comfortable than he had been when we spoke. 
     Isaacson's letter, citing the qualifiers that preceded that 
     final sentence, argued that ``even in hindsight, I do not 
     think we could have stated more clearly that these 
     allegations which were . . . widely reported but also 
     confirmed to us by investigators . . . were not proven and 
     were part of a murky tale.''
       Of course what was ``confirmed by us'' were only the 
     unsourced allegations by investigators. But Isaacson is 
     right: The real problem is the swirling allegations and 
     rumors, not Time's performance in summarizing them. And 
     Isaacson's qualifiers in talking about them were a lot 
     stronger than most.

                        softening starr's image

       Susan Schmidt of The Washington Post begins this Sunday 
     with another softening of Ken Starr's image. ``[A] source 
     close to the prosecutor insisted he never intended to 
     eavesdrop on Jordan or Clinton,'' Schmidt reports.

                            anguished linda

       On the Sunday Today show, Isikoff--now openly engaged in 
     punditry and touting how ``genuine'' the taped conversations 
     seem with a certainty that he would never be allowed to 
     assert in print--refers to an anguished Monica Lewinsky being 
     heard on Newsweek's newly released tape excerpts, along with 
     ``a similarly anguished Linda Tripp.''

                          `it's 50-50 at best'

       Next up on the Sunday Today show is Tim Russert, who takes 
     time out from preparing for Meet The Press to tell host Jack 
     Ford that ``one [friend] described [President Clinton] as 
     near Houdini-like in his ability to escape these kind of 
     scandals and crises. But they realize that it's 50-50 at 

                            meet the drudge

       On his own show, Russert announces that among his Meet The 
     Press guests is Matt Drudge.
       Drudge seizes his moment. When Russert asks about reports 
     on the tapes of the president and other women, Drudge 
     declares, ``There is talk all over this town [that] another 
     White House staffer is going to come out from behind the 
     curtains this week. . . . [T]here are hundreds--hundreds, 
     according to Miss Lewinsky, quoting Clinton.'' At a later 
     point, Drudge adds that if the Clinton side keeps denying the 
     charges, ``this upcoming week is going to be one of the worst 
     weeks in the history of this country.''
       ``Our Round Table is an op-ed page,'' Russert explains 
     later. ``And Matt Drudge was a big player--the big player--in 
     breaking this story. . . . We can pretend that the seven to 
     ten million Americans who were logging on to him don't have 
     the right to see him, but I don't agree.''

                              the witness

       On ABC's This Week with Sam Donaldson--Cokie Roberts (where 
     the alleged scandal got its first airing a week ago), ABC's 
     Jackie Judd has what Cokie Roberts announces are ``new 
     revelations in the alleged affair.''
       Judd then declares: ``ABC News has learned that Ken Starr's 
     investigation has moved well beyond Monica Lewinsky's claims 
     and taped conversations that she had an affair with President 
     Clinton. Several sources have told us that in the spring of 
     1996, the president and Lewinsky were caught in an intimate 
     encounter in a private area of the White House. It is not 
     clear whether the witnesses were Secret Service agents or 
     White House staff.''
       There are four things you need to know about that 
       1. This report surfaces at the time that Starr's people are 
     putting the most pressure on Ginsburg and his client to have 
     Lewinsky testify that she had an affair with the president 
     and that he pressured her to lie about it. ``With leaks like 
     that, they were just trying to scare me into thinking they 
     had a smoking gun and didn't need Monica,'' Ginsburg asserts 
     later. As if to make sure that the point isn't lost on 
     Ginsburg, Judd's report concludes this way: ``This 
     development . . . underscores how Ken Starr is collecting 
     evidence and witnesses to build a case against the 
     president--a case that would not hinge entirely on the word 
     of Monica Lewinsky.''
       2. On the night before (Saturday, January 24) ABC had 
     televised a one-hour special on the alleged scandal, and 
     according to anchor Peter Jennings, Judd had wanted to air 
     her report then. But, says Jennings ``I wanted to hold it . . 
     . I was just not comfortable with the sourcing.''
       Asked later what happened between late Saturday night and 
     early Sunday morning to make the story airworthy, Jennings 
     says, ``I wasn't there on Sunday, but I am told that Jackie 
     worked on it more and was happy with the sourcing by Sunday. 
     . . . She is a fabulous reporter, and I have no reason to 
     doubt her. . . . She plays by the rules and her sourcing is 
     always great,''
       Judd later explains that ``there was no start or stopping 
     in this news cylce. So, yes, between Saturday night and 
     Sunday there was new sources.''
       3. What can ``several'' sources mean? Webster's dictionary 
     defines several as ``more than two but fewer than many.'' 
     Didn't Judd even know how many sources she had? Can there be 
     any excuse for this imprecision other than that this was a 
     figure of speech? ``To me,'' Judd later explains, ``it 
     usually means a minimum of three. . . . I know it was at 
     least three. Of course, I knew how many it was at the time, 
     but I didn't think I needed to specify.
       4. As of this writing, nearly four months after Judd's ABC 
     ``scoop,'' there is no sign of these independent witnesses.
       Does ABC still think the story was right? I later ask 
     Jennings. ``We have not yet retracted it,'' he says, ``and I 
     am still happy she's had no reason to think we should retract 
     it. . . . Overall, ABC has done a fabulous job. Our reporting 
     on this has been exemplary, and I challenge anyone to find 
     where it hasn't been.''
       ``We have not had to retract a single thing,'' echoces 
     Judd. ``I still think there might be a potential witness,'' 
     she adds.
       Might be? A potential witness?
       ``Jackie Judd is a first-class reporter; she's no 
     crackpot,'' says Richard Kaplan, who is president of CNN but 
     until last year was a top news executive at ABC and used to 
     supervise Judd. It's an assessment echoed by Judd's current 
     colleagues, too. But a first-class reporter needs an editor--
     a questioner, someone who slows up on the accelerator at 
     exactly the time that the reporter becomes certain that full 
     speed ahead is the only speed.
       This is especially true if the reporter is aggressive and 
     has been covering a prosecutorial beat too long. For example, 
     reporters who make their careers organized crime can become 
     so inured to the badness of their targets and to the 
     righteousness of the prosecutors on the other side that, 
     after a while some believe almost anything the prosecutors 
     tell them. There is an almost complete suspension of the 
     skepticism that had made them want to be reporters in the 
     first place.
       That's what has happened to Jackie Judd this morning. And 
     apparently there was no editor there to stop her. It was as 
     if in the fabled scenes in the Watergate movie, All The 
     President's Man. when Jason Robards, playing Washington Post 
     executive editor Ben Bradlee, tells his ``boys,'' Woodward 
     and Bernstein, that they ``need more,'' they shrug the old 
     man off and take their stuff to the writing press.
       And as with those organized crime reporters, it may be that 
     Judd--and Schmidt and Isikoff, too--are right in general 
     about President Clinton's allegiance to his marriage vows. 
     Ditto Ken Starr. The issue here, though, is whether they're 
     right about this particular allegation and are treating the 
     president fairly in considering it. In short, whether there 
     turns out to be a witness or now, how can Judd defend a 
     January story declaring that there were witnesses by saying 
     four months later that ``there still might be a potential 

                       the witness as predicated

       Now that Judd's scoop has been aired, Sam Donaldson uses it 
     as the predicate for much of his questioning of guests on 
     This Week. They include Clinton aide Paul Begala, who attacks 
     it as an unsubstantiated leak, and House Judiciary Committee 
     Chairman Henry Hyde, who would preside over any initial 
     impeachment hearings.

[[Page H5262]]

       Donaldson begins with Hyde by saying, ``Corroborating 
     witnesses have been discovered . . . Mr. Chairman, what do 
     you think of that?''
       Hyde doesn't bite. ``It's an allegation,'' he says. ``We 
     don't have any proof of it yet.''
       In their closing roundtable discussion, Donaldson tells co-
     anchor Cokie Roberts, ``If he's not telling the truth, I 
     think his presidency is numbered in days. . . . Mr. Clinton, 
     if he's not telling the truth and the evidence shows that, 
     will resign, perhaps this week.''
       ``You have Sam Donaldson saying it's a matter of days, and 
     Tim Russert talking about 72 hours--it's kinda crazy,'' Bob 
     Woodward says later. ``They seem to forget that it was April 
     of 1974 when the tapes came out with Nixon saying, `I want 
     you to lie and it still took four months.''
       Three months later, Donaldson defends his prediction, 
     saying. ``I said, . . . ``if there is evidence,' and I 
     thought evidence would be presented before now. And I clearly 
     meant evidence that it is persuasive.''

                        ratcheting up the story

       At the end of his show, Donaldson takes Judd's report a 
     step further. Instead of Judd's ``several sources have told 
     us'' introduction, Donaldson closes the show by declaring 
     that ``corroborating witnesses have been found who caught the 
     president and Miss Lewinsky in an intimate act in the White 
       ``Someone in the control room asked me so summarize 
     Jackie's report,'' Donaldson explains later. ``And one of the 
     dangers of an ad-lib situation is that you never say it as 
     precisely as you would like.'' As for the bona fides of the 
     story three months later, Donaldson says, ``All I can say is 
     that we believed it was accurate, but people changed their 
     minds about what they would say.''

                              four sources

       By about 3:00 Sunday afternoon, The New York Times is 
     drafting its own story about witnesses interrupting the 
     president and Lewinisky. ``When I saw the Judd report on ABC, 
     I recognized it as a story we were working on,'' Times 
     Washington bureau chief Michael Oreskes later recalls. ``By 
     the time I came in that afternoon, we had four sources. And 
     we were preparing to lead the Times with it the next 


       At 4:42 eastern time, Tom Brokaw and Claire Shipman of NBC 
     break into pre-Super Bowl programming with the following 
       Brokaw: ``There's an unconfirmed report that, at some 
     point, someone caught the president and Ms. Lewinsky in an 
     intimate moment. what do you know about that?''
       Shipman: ``Well, sources in Ken Starr's office tell us that 
     they are investigating that possibility but that they haven't 
     confirmed it.''
       ``Our anchor and White House reporter come on the air and 
     say, here's something that we don't know it true but we just 
     thought we'd tell you anyway just for the hell of it, so we 
     can say we reported it just in case it turns out to be 
     true,'' a disgusted NBC reporter says later. ``That's 
       Asked three months later why he aired that kind of 
     ``bulletin,'' Brokaw says, ``That's a good question. I guess 
     it was because of ABC's report. Our only rationale could be 
     that it's out there, so let's talk about it . . . But in 
     retrospect we shouldn't have done it.''
       Of course, what Shipman did confirm in that report was the 
     commission of one certain felony, though not one involving 
     the president: The leak of material from Starr's office 
     pertaining to a grand jury investigation. For she does tell 
     us that her report comes form ``sources in Ken Starr's 
       In our later interview, when asked about Shipman's report, 
     Starr refers me to Bennett, who, again, refused to discuss 
     any conversations with specific reporters.

                              story killed

       At about 6:00, the Times kills its witness story. According 
     to Oreskes, reporters Stephen Labaton and John Broder ``came 
     in to me and said `guess what? We don't have it.' It turns 
     out that they had felt uneasy, and when they tracked back our 
     four sources [Broder and Labaton], concluded that they were 
     only telling them what they'd all heard from the same 
     person--who did not know it firsthand anyway.
       ``Sometimes, especially in this thing, the story you're 
     proudest of is the story you don't run.'' Oreskes adds. ``We 
     were under enormous pressure on this one . . . People were 
     beating us. But sometimes you just have to sit there and take 

                              pulling back

       By the time ABC airs its evening news at 6:30, Jackie Judd 
     is pulling back. In the morning. ``several sources'' had told 
     her the president and Lewinsky was caught in the act. Now we 
     hear from her only that ``Starr is investigating claims'' 
     that a witness caught them in the act.
     Day 6: Monday 1/26/98

                           Caught in the Act

       Picking up on Judd's ``scoop,'' both the Daily News and 
     post in New York scream. ``Caught In The Act'' across their 
     front pages this morning. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-
     Dispatch, in a story bylined ``From News Services,'' reports 
     (as do other newspapers using similar wire services) that 
     ``ABC News reported that the president and Lewinsky were 
     caught in an intimate encounter.

                    `All This Stuff Floating Around'

       One of the stranger pick-ups of Judd's witness story comes 
     from the Chicago Tribune, a paper ``shut out of getting our 
     own scoops from Starr because we never invested in having our 
     people cover him on Whitewater,'' according to Washington 
     bureau Chief James Warren.
       The Tribune reports what ABC reported, then says that it 
     could not confirm the story independently: ``I was against 
     using it, but agreed to this as a compromise,'' Warren 
     explains later.
       Tribune associate managing editor for foreign and national 
     news George de Lama says later, ``We figured that our readers 
     had seen it and had access to it. So we had to acknowledge 
     that it existed, and we wanted to say we could not confirm 
       It is indeed a dilemma. Should a story become a news item 
     that has to be repeated and talked about simply because it is 
     broadcast the first time? Or should Chicago newspaper readers 
     be shielded from it?
       ``In retrospect,'' de Lama later concedes, ``I wish we had 
     not published it.... It soon became clear to us that there's 
     gonna be all kinds of stuff out there floating around and we 
     should just publish what we know independently.''
       Which the Tribune later did, admirably, with a scoop 
     interview of press secretary Mike McCurry musing about the 
     possibility that the truth of the president's relationship 
     with Lewinsky is ``complicated,'' and with a story about 
     money going to a legal defense fund for Paula Jones being 
     used by Jones personally.

                           `Desperate Times'

       Again, Newsweek's Evan Thomas has forgotten his own 
     admonition about reporters mouthing off on television. On 
     Good Morning America to promote Newsweek's new issue, he is 
     asked, ``Do the [president's] advisers think that the 
     American people are going to draw some sort of distinction 
     between sexual acts?'' To which Thomas replies, as if he 
     knows, ``Desperate times call for desperate measures.''

                       More Pressure on Lewinsky

       On the NBC Nightly News, David Bloom, with his ever-helpful 
     ``sources,'' puts more pressure on Lewinsky and Ginsburg. 
     ``[S]ources also caution that if no deal is struck tonight, 
     [Lewinsky] could be hauled before a . . . grand jury. . . as 
     early as tomorrow.'' Four months later, there would still be 
     no deal and no Lewinsky testimony.

                          Monica At The Gates

       On CBS's evening newscast, Scott Pelley reports that 
     ``sources'' tell him that on January 3, Lewinsky was ``denied 
     entry at the [White House] gate'' and ``threw a fit, 
     screaming, Don't you know who I am?' '' It's a report that 
     doesn't get picked up by the rest of the media, despite its 
     apparent news value; if true, it would mean that during this 
     exact week that the president was trying to get Lewinsky to 
     participate in a cover-up, she was being turned away at the 
     White House. But three months later Pelley maintains, ``I 
     know this story was true.''

                  `This Just In': A Seventh-Hand Story

       Larry King Live seems to be going well for the president. 
     This is the night of the day when the president forcefully 
     denied having had sex with ``that woman, Miss Lewinsky.'' 
     Former campaign aide Mandy Grunwald and the Reverend Jesse 
     Jackson (plus the ubiquitous Evan Thomas, Republican politico 
     Ed Rollins, and former Washington Post executive editor Ben 
     Bradlee) are engaged in a balanced, calm discussion for most 
     of the show. Then, with a few minutes left. King returns 
     from a commercial break with a bulletin:
       ``Panel, this just in from Associated Press, Washington: A 
     Secret Service agent is reportedly ready to testify that he 
     saw President Clinton and former White House intern Monica 
     Lewinsky in a compromising position. The Dallas Morning News 
     reports tonight [on its website] that it has talked to an 
     unidentified lawyer familiar with the negotiations between 
     the agency and the office of . . . Ken Starr. The paper 
     quotes the lawyer as saying the agent is, quote, ``now a 
     government witness,'' end quote.''
       Reread that paragraph. At best, it's a fourth-hand report 
     (though, as we'll see, it's actually seventh-hand). The 
     Associated Press (1) is quoting The Dallas Morning News (2) 
     as quoting an anonymous lawyer-source (3) as saying that a 
     witness (4) will say something. Yet it punctures the ``maybe-
     Clinton-will-survive'' tone of the rest of the King show--as 
     it does the remainder of Geraldo Rivera's show on CNBC, where 
     he introduces the AP report as follows: ``Uh-oh, hold it. Oh, 
     hold it. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Bulletin, Bulletin, 
     Bulletin. Associated Press, three minutes ago. . . .''
       Ninety minutes later, The Dallas Morning News pulls the 
     story, because, the News would later explain, its source 
     called in to say they had gotten it wrong.
       ``You get handed something you read it,'' Larry King says 
     later. ``I didn't have to, but I kind of felt compelled to. . 
     . . It wasn't the New York Post. It was the AP and The Dallas 
     Morning News. It's a dilemma of live television. What do you 
     do? You're at the mercy of what's handed to you.''
       CNN president Richard Kaplan says later that he had been 
     asked earlier in the evening by CNN producers who had heard 
     about the possible Dallas story whether they should use it if 
     the Morning News indeed published it. He had said no. ``But 
     then Tom Johnson''--CNN's chairman and Kaplan's boss--

[[Page H5263]]

     ``called into the control room,'' Kaplan says. ``Tom knew 
     these Dallas people well and he said they were reliable.''
       Johnson says that his go-ahead for CNN to report the Dallas 
     Morning News story came only ``after some producer just 
     ripped it off the wire and had Larry read it; I then told 
     them it was okay to do it on the ten o'clock news how, too.'' 
     Still, Johnson confirms that ``it's my fault. I called around 
     to the Morning News people and to AP people, and they assured 
     me on this story. . . . The Morning News people told me the 
     source, who was some lawyer. . . . But I'm the one who made 
     the decision.''
       Assoicated Press Washington bureau chief Jonathan Wollman 
     explains later that AP uses its own judgment in deciding 
     which stories from other news organizations to publish on its 
     wire. He also notes that, soon after his organization filed 
     the report that Larry King read, ``we added something from 
     our own people quoting Secret Service agents as being 
     skeptical of the Morning News story. Then we added something 
     form the White House disputing the story.''
       In fact, this story was a leak from a Washington lawyer 
     named Joseph diGenova. He and his wife, Victoria Toensig, are 
     former federal prosecutors who often appear on talk TV, 
     defending Starr and making the case for the president's 
       According to Toensig, she had been approached by a ``friend 
     of someone who is a former worker in the White House.'' 
     (Toensig will not say if the person's friend was a Secret 
     Service agent or a White House steward.) The person who 
     contacted Toensig told Toensig that this former White House 
     employee had been told by a coworker at the White House 
     that the coworker had, says Toensig, ``seen the president 
     and Lewinsky in a compromising position.'' Toensig was 
     asked by the friend whether she might be willing to 
     represent this secondhand witness if this person decided 
     to go to Starr and talk about what the alleged firsthand 
     witness (the coworker) had said.
       DiGenova had overheard his wife discussing this possibility 
     with this friend of the secondhand witness. Then, according 
     to diGenova, after he had heard Jackie Judd's report of a 
     witness on Sunday, he ``mentioned'' to Dallas Morning News 
     reporter David Jackson that he'd ``heard the same story that 
     Judd had broadcast.'' Without telling Jackson, diGenova was 
     thinking about what he had heard his wife discussing. 
     However, by the time diGenova had mentioned this to Jackson, 
     unbeknownst to him, the person who had approached his wife on 
     behalf of this secondhand witness had broken off the 
     discussions, and the secondhand had not come forward. 
     According to Toensig, when Jackson called her on Monday and 
     asked her about the story. ``I told him, `If Joe [her 
     husband] told you that, he's wrong. Do not go with that 
     story.' But I guess he didn't believe me.''
       According to Toensig, before her talks with the friend of 
     the possible secondhand witness had broken off, she had 
     mentioned the possibility of the witness to people in Starr's 
     office--which means that when Jackson of the Morning News 
     called Starr's office to get a second-source 
     ``confirmation,'' his second source was, in fact, no second 
     source at all. It was just someone playing back diGenova's 
     now-inoperative story, which diGenova's wife had tried to 
     shoot down.
       ``When I saw Geraldo read the bulletin,'' Toensig recalls, 
     ``I figured they must have gotten it from someone else--not 
     Joe and certainly not me. Then I got a call from [the Morning 
     News] later that night and Jackson asked me to tell him again 
     that he was right . . . and I immediately said, `I told you 
     you were wrong earlier to not go with it.' ''
       ``This was a single-source story from me,'' diGenova 
     concludes. ``I thought they'd check it; all I did was give 
     them a vague tip of what I had heard Vicki talking about on 
     the phone.'' Jackson of The Dallas Morning News declines to 
     comment on his conversations with diGenova or his sources for 
     the story.
       In short, this story of a ``Secret Service'' witness seems 
     to have been a one-source story from a fifth-hand source: 
     DiGenova (1) heard his wife (2) talking to a friend (3) of 
     someone (4) who had talked to someone (5) who said he'd seen 
     Lewinsky with Clinton. That makes CNN's report a seventh-hand 
     story, because we have to add The Dallas Morning News and The 
     Associated Press to the chain before we get to Larry King.
       ``As a result of the Morning News thing,'' CNN's president 
     of global gathering and international networks, Eason Jordan, 
     says later, ``We instituted a new policy. At least two senior 
     executives here have to give the okay before we go with 
     anyone else's reporting on anything having to do with this 
     story. . . . We've decided that it's a total cop-out to go 
     with someone else's stuff and just attribute it to them. Once 
     you put in on your air it's your responsibility.''
       ``I can't tell you how much pressure we were under from our 
     own bosses to report something like the Morning News 
     reported,'' CBS's Dan Rather remembers. ``that rumor was all 
     over the place. But we just couldn't nail it. . . . It was a 
     third-hand source and maybe a fourth-hand source.''
       ``Without getting into details,'' adds Scott Pelley of CBS, 
     ``I can tell you that we just didn't like the sourcing. It 
     was too suspect.''
       According to a journalist at ABC, and to two reporters 
     working on the story that day at rival news organizations, 
     Jackie Judd's sources for her report about a White House 
     witness the night before were also people in Starr's office 
     who had heard about the supposed secondhand witness, probably 
     from Toensig. Which would make hers a fifth-hand report, too.
       Jennings disputes this. ``I have no doubt that we were on 
     to a different story,'' he says, ``because I know who our 
     sources are.'' Could his sources, whom he declined to name, 
     have been people who had simply talked to the Dallas paper's 
     sources? ``I'm fully satisfied that they weren't,'' he says.
       Judd refuses all comment about ``anything having to do with 

                         A Good Day On The Web

       At MSNBC's ambitious website there have been 830,000 visits 
     today, far more than for any other day, including the days 
     following the death of Princess Diana.
     Day 7: Tuesday 1/27/98

                       The Retracted Story Lives

       The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports this morning that ``The 
     Dallas Morning News reported Monday night that a Secret 
     Service agent was prepared to testify that he saw Clinton and 
     Lewinsky in a compromising situation.''


       Tonight is the night of the president's State of the Union 
     message, and in The Washington Post, James Glassman writes a 
     column saying that the president should say he's sorry and 
     that he's resigning.

                            `Reckless Idiot'

       New York Times op-ed foreign affairs columnist Thomas 
     Friedman writes about his feeling of personal betrayal: ``I 
     knew he was a charming rogue with an appealing agenda, but I 
     didn't think he was a reckless idiot with an appealing 

                              four options

       On the Microsoft-owned and Michael Kinsley-edited Slate web 
     magazine, Jacob Weisberg presents four options for the 
     president with their chances of success: Brazen It Out: 20 
     percent; Contrition: 5 percent; Full Confession: 15 percent; 
     and Wag the Dog: 2 percent.

                             circulation up

       The Washington Post reports that USA Today printed 20 
     percent more copies than usual for its weekend edition, that 
     CNN's rating are up about 40 percent, and that Time added 
     100,000 copies to its usual newsstand distribution.

                   ``let's not ask about any rumors''

       The event of the day is Hillary Clinton's morning 
     appearance on the Today show, forcefully defending her 
     husband. Matt Lauer interviews her, and does a terrific job.
       ``We found out over the weekend that she was going to go 
     through with [the long-scheduled interview],'' Lauer says. 
     ``On Monday afternoon I sat down with [various producers and 
     NBC News president] Andy Lack to run through it for about two 
     or three hours. . . . It wasn't so much about questions as 
     about tone. . . . We talked about asking her about whether 
     the president defines oral sex as sexual relations, but we 
     decided that we were not going to ask the First Lady of the 
     United States a question like that.
       ``Another thing we decided,'' Lauer says, ``was that we 
     were not going to ask a single question based on rumor or 
       Why was that standard used for Mrs. Clinton, but for no one 
       ``Because we knew we'd run into a dead end because she'd 
     say, `that's based on rumor or a sealed document,' or 
     something like that, `and I'm not going to talk about it.' ''
       If only other Today guests had that discipline.
     Day 8: Wednesday 1/28/98

                       do as we say, not as we do

       The St. Louis Post-Dispatch greets its readers with an 
     editorial that slams Jackie Judd's ABC report about 
     a ``witness'' and the Dallas Morning News report about a 
     ``Secret Service witness'' as examples of ``rumor being 
     reported as news. . . . The media would be best to stick 
     with traditional conventions that require firsthand 
     information and confirmation from multiple sources,'' says 
     the paper.
       Not mentioned is the fact that the Post-Dispatch had itself 
     reported both stories in its own news columns. Why not? 
     William Freivogel, who wrote the editorial for the Post-
     Dispatch, explains. ``We don't in general criticize our own 
     paper. . . . This was meant as a general commentary.''
     Day 9: Thursday 1/29/98

                          The Vanishing Dress

       The CBS Evening News leads with a scoop. Scott Pelley 
     reports that ``no DNA evidence or stains have been found on a 
     dress that belongs to Lewinsky.''
       ``I'd much rather have our scoop about the semen dress than 
     the scoop everyone else had,'' Pelley says later.
       The next night, Jackie Judd will spin the no-dress story 
     her way. She'll say ``law enforcement sources . . . say a 
     dress and other pieces of clothing were tested, but that they 
     had all been dry-cleaned before the FBI picked them up from 
     Lewinsky's apartment.'' In other words, the lack of evidence 
     only proves how clever the criminals are.
       Whether it turns out that Bill Clinton had sex with Monica 
     Lewinsky or not (and whether it turns out that he stained one 
     dress or 100 dresses) has nothing to do with the fact that 
     Judd's every utterance is infected with the clear assumption 
     that the president is guilty at a time when no reporter can 
     know that.

[[Page H5264]]

     Day 10: Friday 1/30/98

                        Those Terrible Paparazzi

       The Daily News leads with a story about Lewinsky being 
     mobbed by the press when she went out to dinner in Washington 
     the night before with Ginsburg. ``The black car being pursued 
     by the paparazzi echoed the scene just before the car crash 
     that killed Princess Diana,'' the paper reports.
       On the front page of the paper is the paparazzi shot 
     of Lewinsky in the car.
       Asked later why his own paper would help enhance the market 
     for paparazzi misconduct by buying a photograph taken under 
     circumstances that his paper described as so intimidating and 
     dangerous. Daily News owner and copublisher Mortimer 
     Zuckerman said he would have to call me back. He didn't.

                         Three `Precious Words'

       Jeff Greenfield, who has just joined CNN from ABC, proves 
     why he may be one of the smartest people on television. On 
     Larry King Live, he's asked what he thinks of Linda Tripp 
     having charged today that she was present at 2:00 a.m. in 
     Lewinsky's apartment when the president called one night. His 
     answer: ``Well . . . since I was not in the room, have not 
     talked to Linda Tripp, have not talked to Monica Lewinsky, 
     have not heard the tape . . . I think the best course of 
     action is for me to say, `I don't know.' And, you know, I am 
     beginning to think those might be the three most precious 
     words that we all ought to . . . remember . . . This notion 
     of guessing . . . what . . . do we think the president, if it 
     was the president, might have said to Monica Lewinsky that 
     Linda Tripp could conceivably have heard that I haven't 
     talked to her about? I'll pass.''
     Day 11: Saturday 1/31/98

                             Tripp Surfaces

       The big story in the morning newspapers is that Linda Tripp 
     has come out of hiding to issue the statement King asked 
     Greenfield about the night before. Tripp charges, as the St. 
     Louis Post-Dispatch dutifully reports in a widely 
     circulated Associated Press story, that Lewinsky described 
     ``every detail of an alleged affair with Clinton during 
     hundreds of hours of conversations over the last 15 
     months. In addition, I was present when she received a 
     late night phone call from the president. I have also seen 
     numerous gifts they exchanged and heard several of her 
     tapes of him.''
       Another wire service story in the same edition of the Post-
     Dispatch says Lewinsky lawyer Ginsburg denies that Tripp 
     ``ever was `privy to any conversation' between Lewinsky and 
     President Bill Clinton.''
       What's most curious about Tripp's statement is that 
     witnesses who are cooperating with prosecutors are routinely 
     forbidden from making any public statements, in exchange for 
     not being prosecuted themselves. (Tripp was potentially 
     vulnerable under a Maryland law that prohibits taping 
     telephone conversations without the consent of both parties.) 
     ``She made her own decision,'' Starr later contends. ``You 
     can't control the actions of an independent-minded human 
     Day 12: Sunday 2/1/98

                        more from the fbi tapes

       Starr's people have obviously continued to make good on 
     their promise to give Isikoff the best seat in the house as 
     they continue to trickle out the alleged contents of the 
     tapes they made of Tripp and Lewinsky. Now, in its new issue, 
     Newsweek reports that Lewinsky told Tripp that she had told 
     Vernon Jordan she would not sign the affidavit stating she 
     did not have sex with the president until he got her a job.
       In another article, Newsweek declares that the magazine 
     ``has learned that [in his Jones deposition] Clinton swore he 
     never met alone with Lewinsky after she left the employ of 
     the White House. . . . But Newsweek has confirmed that 
     Clinton and Lewinsky did in fact meet last Dec. 28, and 
     investigators are examining the possibility of several 
     other occasions on which the two met alone.''
       When Clinton's deposition is revealed three weeks later, 
     the premise of this scoop would turn out to be wrong; the 
     president did not say he hadn't met alone with Lewinsky.
     Day 13: Monday 2/2/98

                            an all-time high

       Most of the nation's newspapers report that polls show the 
     president's popularity to be at an all-time high. Meantime, 
     Susan Schmidt and Bill McAllister of the Washington Post lead 
     with Star saying ``his investigation of the Monica Lewinsky 
     matter is moving swiftly.''
     Day 14: Tuesday 2/3/98

                        no secret service agent

       On the Evening News, CBS's Pelley says he has ``learned 
     that the Secret Service has conducted an internal inquiry and 
     now believes that no agents saw any liaison between the 
     president and Monica Lewinsky.''
       ``I liked that scoop better than Jackie Judd's,'' Pelley 
     says later.
     Day 15: Wednesday 2/4/98

                     the journal pushes the button

       Just before 4:00 p.m. Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn 
     Simpson tells White House deputy press secretary Joe Lockhart 
     that the paper needs comment for a story charging that White 
     House steward Bayani Nelvis has told a federal grand jury 
     that he saw President Clinton and Lewinsky alone in a study 
     next to the Oval Office, and that after the two left he 
     recovered tissues with ``lipstick and other stains'' on them. 
     Lockhart says he'll get back to Simpson quickly.
       Fifteen minutes later, and without waiting for Lockhart, 
     the Journal publishes the story on its Internet site.
       ``When I told [Journal Washington bureau chief Alan] Murray 
     that Joe was going to get right back to me, Alan told me it 
     was too late.'' Simpson says later. ``He had already pushed 
     the button.''
       ``The White House had taken the position [in general] that 
     it was not commenting,'' Murray says. ``So I figured, why 
       Murray, who refuses comment on whether Starr's office was 
     the source for the story except to say, ``I can promise you 
     we had sources outside of Starr's office.'' concedes that he 
     had heard that ABC was also on the story and that he wanted 
     to beat them. Murray, who is known around Washington as an 
     especially careful, responsible journalist, also acknowledged 
     that his paper had just completed a joint venture agreement 
     with NBC to provide editorial content to its CNBC cable 
     network (which offers financial news during the day and talk 
     shows at night) and that, ``yes, it was in my mind that we 
     could impress them with this.'' However, Murray also 
     points out that because the Journal has long operated a 
     wire service, ``making instant publishing decisions was 
     not new to us.''
       ``They got too excited and Alan rushed to get on 
     television,'' asserts one veteran Journal reporter, who says 
     he has knowledge of the decision to publish.
       Indeed, Murray appears on CNBC minutes after he pushes the 
     button on his website reciting the Nelvis story. Almost 
     immediately, the White House press office denounces the 
     story, and Nelvis's attorney, who seems to be cooperating 
     with White House lawyers, calls the story ``absolutely false 
     and irresponsible.''
       By the time the actual newspaper would go to bed later that 
     evening, the Journal would pull back. It will report that the 
     steward described the incident in question to Secret Service 
     personnel, not to the grand jury.
       When the paper sees daylight on February 5, White House 
     press secretary Mike McCurry will denounce the Journal's 
     online story--and its failure to await comment from him--as 
     ``one of the sorriest episodes of journalism I've ever 
       By Monday, February 9, the Journal would be forced to 
     report that ``White House steward Bayani Nelvis told a grand 
     jury he didn't see President Clinton alone with Monica 
     Lewinsky, contrary to a report in The Wall Street Journal 
     last week.'' And Journal managing editor Paul Steiger would 
     be quoted in the same story as saying, ``We deeply regret our 
     erroneous report of Mr. Nelvis's testimony.''
       Could it be that Judd's report on Sunday night about a 
     ``witness'' catching the president in the act, and The Dallas 
     Morning New's dead-wrong, one-sourced, fifth-hand report on 
     Monday night about a Secret Service agent being ready to 
     testify, and this report about Nelvis testifying or, as it 
     later became, about Nelvis telling a Secret Service agent 
     what he had seen, are all different versions of the same 
     story? ``Yes, I am sure it's all the same story,'' says 
     Victoria Toensig (the lawyer whose conversations that her 
     husband had overheard became the ``source'' for the Dallas 
     Morning News story).
       Of course, it could ultimately turn out that a credible 
     witness claiming to have seen the president and Lewinsky in a 
     compromising position--or claiming that Nelvis told him or 
     her about that--does come forward. By late-May, rumors would 
     persist that Starr would produce at least that much. But the 
     point is that, in early February, when these stories are 
     published, they are at best third-, fourth-, or fifth-hand 
     claims and the reporting of them as breakthrough news is a 

                             no other bites

       It's near 6:00 p.m. and the networks have to decide how to 
     handle the Journal's scoop.
       ABC goes halfway, saying Nelvis has been called as a 
     witness and ``he might have been in a position to observe Mr. 
     Clinton without the president's knowledge.''
       At NBC, ``[vice president of NBC News] Bill Wheatley, 
     [Nightly New's executive producer] David Doss, and I were 
     standing in a cubicle at 5:50 talking into a conference phone 
     with Tim Russett,'' Tom Brokaw recalls. ``The Journal's 
     website story moving toward a full-blown story. But we 
     decided, after talking to Tim, that it didn't have legs.''
       ``We almost went with the Journal story,'' CNN's head 
     of newsgathering, Eason Jordan, says. ``But the rule we 
     put in place after the Dallas Morning News screwup stopped 
       ``The difference between this and Watergate,'' says Brokaw, 
     ``is what I call the Big Bang Theory of Journalism. There's 
     been a Big Bang and the media have expanded exponentially. . 
     . . Back then, you had no Nightline, no weekend Today or Good 
     Morning America, no Internet, no magazine shows [except 60 
     Minutes], no C-Span, no real talk radio, and no CNN or MSNBC 
     or Fox News doing news all day. . . . As a result of all 
     that, the news process has accelerated greatly. . . . 
     Something, some small piece of matter, maybe a rumor, can get 
     pulled into the vacuum at night on a talk show or in the 
     morning on Imus [the nationally syndicated radio show that is 
     a bastion of smart, irreverent political conversation] and 
     get talked about on radio or on CNN or MSNBC during the day 
     and pick up some density, then get talked about some more or 
     put on a website

[[Page H5265]]

     that afternoon and pick up more density, and by late 
     afternoon I have to look at something that has not just shape 
     and density but some real veneer--and I have to decide what 
     to do with it. That's kind of what happened with this one.''
       Brokaw's description of the care he took in this instance 
     of the unsubstantiated Wall Street Journal story is 
     impressive. And his assessment of the way the new technology 
     of 24-hour cable channels and websites has forever turned the 
     old news cycle into a tornado is right on the money. But the 
     often sorry performance of his own news organization--for 
     example, in chasing Judd's ABC ``scoop'' by rushing on that 
     Brokaw-Shipman ``bulletin'' the prior Sunday of an 
     ``unconfirmed report'' of a witness, let alone NBC's airing 
     on sister channels MSNBC and CNBC of any and all rumors--
     makes it impossible not to conclude that Brokaw is describing 
     an out-of-control process that he and his colleagues are 
     often part of. He's like the articulate alcoholic at an AA 
     Day 16: Thursday 2/5/98

                             No `Jam Job':

       The New York Times ``bulldog'' edition comes out tonight 
     with a Friday morning story that punctures the revelry among 
     those who hear about it at the White House state dinner for 
     British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It's about Clinton 
     secretary Betty Currie having not been at work for 
     ``several'' days because she was with Starr's people. Among 
     other things, says the Times, Currie has spoken of having 
     retrieved some presidential gifts from Lewinsky, and about 
     how she had been called into the Oval Office the day after 
     President Clinton faced those surprise Lewinsky questions 
     at his Jones deposition and was taken by the president 
     through a series of rhetorical questions and answers.
       The article, by Jeff Gerth, Stephen Labaton, and Don Van 
     Natta, Jr., seems to be yet another relying on prosecutorial 
     leaks rather than Watergate-like firsthand reports from 
     witnesses. In fact, in our interview, Starr acknowledges that 
     he personally had met with Labaton and Gerth about the story, 
     although, he says, ``My understanding was that they knew the 
     substance of it . . . I only wanted to talk to them about its 
     timing,'' Starr urges me to talk to his deputy, Bennett--who, 
     he says, had ``talked more extensively with the Times for the 
     story.'' As for why he had not been quoted by name if the 
     discussion was not improper, Starr says only that Bennett 
     ``knows about the ground rules.''
       But Bennett refuses to discuss the ground rules, while 
     asserting that he was ``in no way a source for the 
     information in the Time's Betty Currie story.'' No one at the 
     Times will discuss their sources for this or any other story, 
     but one top Times editor points out that the reporters could 
     not have cared about discussing the timing of the story with 
     Starr because ``we ran it in the next available paper'' after 
     that meeting.
       Prepared over several days--``this was not some Sue Schmidt 
     jam job,'' says one Times reporter--the Time's Currie story 
     would stand out nearly four months later as the most damaging 
     to the president--and the one whose basic facts had not been 
     challenged. But although it is precisely written and careful 
     not to draw conclusions, it will not be read by the rest of 
     the press with the same precision.


       On Nightline, Ted Koppel scraps a planned show on the 
     International Monetary Fund. He opens by announcing ``a 
     later-breaking story'' that ``the president's personal 
     secretary is said to have told investigators that she was 
     coached by President Clinton to say things she knew to be 
       ``This was a breaking story, and the opening has to be 
     written very quickly,'' Koppel later recalls. ``But right 
     after that I quoted the Time's language exactly. . . . Our 
     opener is like a magazine cover or news headline; it 
     frequently will use a grabbier verb or adjective than is used 
     later on.''
       Nightline guest Sam Donaldson also repeats the word 
     ``coached,'' Only NPR's Nina Totenberg, another guest, is 
     more careful: ``This story . . . is fairly clearly a leak 
     from the prosecutor's office and with the exception of [the 
     gifts] . . . it is their characterization of what Betty 
     Currie has said,''
       By the next morning, Currie's lawyer--who was quoted deep 
     down in the original Times article saying that Currie was 
     not ``aware of any illegal or ethical impropriety by 
     anyone''--would issue a statement declaring that it is 
     ``absolutely false'' that his client believed that Clinton 
     ``tried to influence her recollection.'' The White House, 
     meanwhile, offers its own spin on the Clinton session with 
     Currie: The president was simply refreshing his own 
       Whatever the full story, what matters is that the Times 
     didn't spin it one way or the other, while the rest of the 
     press did.
       ``Everyone said we said `coaching,' but we didn't,'' Gerth 
     recalls later. ``There was a lot of deliberation here over 
     what words went into that story. . . . The story as written, 
     not as interpreted, was accurate.''
       ``I still have no idea whether she was coached or not,'' 
     says Times Washington bureau chief Oreskes. ``We were acutely 
     aware of the fact that we were dealing with descriptions and 
     partial descriptions that were secondhand.''
     Day 17: Friday 2/6/98


       The morning shows are filled with talk about the president 
     ``coaching'' Betty Currie, as are the newspaper headlines. 
     (``Prez Told Me To Lie,'' screams the New York Post.)
       But by the afternoon, the White House has turned the day 
     around. First there is the president's relaxed, effective 
     performance at his afternoon joint press conference with 
     Prime Minister Blair. Then there's a counterattack from his 
     lawyer, David Kendall, who bashes Starr for alleged unlawful 
     leaks and distributes a 15-page letter to Starr that claims 
     to document them.
       Kendall's slam works so well that the NBC, ABC, and CBS 
     evening news shows lead with it. The only talk about the 
     Times Betty Currie story--the stuff of the Nightline show the 
     night before--comes by way of explaining that this is the 
     latest leak that the Clinton lawyers are so angry about.
       The reason it's working has to do with the dynamics of the 
     media. True, the press loves a good crime investigation 
     and loves reporting the leaks that trickle out. But even 
     more, reporters love a one-on-one fight. It's more 
     dramatic easier to understand--and it makes booking pro 
     and con guests on the talk shows a breeze.
       ``We'd been talking about leaks since this started.'' says 
     White House spin man Paul Begala. ``But sometimes you just 
     have to get up and scream it and start a food fight to get 
     them to write about it.''
       ``Because we decided not to get into specific denials of 
     most of this stuff, we could not answer with facts,'' 
     concedes former White House scandal counsel Lanny Davis. ``So 
     we answered with a fight about the process and the 

                          showing their colors

       Now it has become a Starr-Clinton food fight, the reporters 
     on the talk shows are even more tempted to show their real 
     colors. Rather than ``analyze'' what is happening in the 
     investigation, tonight they are called upon to take sides. It 
     is almost scary to watch people who sell themselves as 
     unbiased reporters of fact by day become these kind of fierce 
     advocates at night once the camera goes on.
       A good example is Stuart Taylor, Jr., the serious, 
     scrupulous, and brilliant senior writer for the National 
     Journal who virtually started all of this with a 
     groundreaking 1996 piece on the Paula Jones suit in The 
     American Lawyer that, by Newsweek's own account, had inspired 
     the Newsweek cover story about the case. Taylor has become 
     the complete anti-Clinton partisan. He makes no bones about 
     it, so much so that the one television show that prefers calm 
     analysis to food fights--The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on 
     PBS--has already dropped him from his legal analyst perch. (I 
     was the co-owner and editor of the American Lawyer when 
     Taylor's Jones piece was published.)
       Now, on Nightime, Taylor takes the absurd Starr position as 
     his own--that if prosecutors leak material coming from their 
     talks with witnesses as they prepare them for the grand jury, 
     they are not committing a crime, because only leaks from 
     actual grand jury testimony are crimes. That's not what the 
     courts have ruled, and it's a quite a bit of legalistic 
     derring-do, coming from someone who said 11 days earlier on 
     Nightline, in referring to the president, that ``innocent 
     people with nothing to hide who tell the truth don't need to 
     surround themselves with phalanxes of lawyers.'' (About six 
     weeks after this appearance, Taylor would begin negotiating 
     with Starr to take a job advising Starr and writing the 
     independent counsel's report to the House of Representatives, 
     but he would ultimately decide not to accept the offer.)
     Day 18: Saturday 2/7/98

                           leaks? what leaks?

       The nation's newspapers generally highlight Kendall's leak 
     charges. Many of those writing the stories, such as Schmidt 
     and Baker of The Washington Post, know from their own 
     experience the charges are true. But they can't and won't say 
       Two days later, media reporter Howard Kurtz of The 
     Washington Post (who is also a contributor to this magazine) 
     would write a story headlined ``With Leaks, Reporters Go With 
     The Flow.'' In the piece, Kurtz describes the ``bizarre 
     quality to the weekend coverage of White House charges that . 
     . . Starr was illegally leaking. . . . At least some 
     journalists at each major news organization know whether 
     Starr's staff is in fact dishing on background, but the 
     stories are written as though this were an impenetrable 
     Day 19: Sunday 2/8/98

                              we can't ask

       Time magazine is out this morning with a cover story 
     entitled ``Trial By Leaks.'' The story has a problem: It's 
     produced by reporters, writers, and editors who know the 
     truth but can't write it.
       Even a wordsmith as skilled as Time senior editor Nancy 
     Gibbs--who, as with the first Time Lewinsky cover story, pens 
     the lead piece here--can't write around this problem. 
     Describing leaks ``so fast and steady'' that they are ``an 
     undergound river,'' Gibbs proceeds over five pages simply to 
     describe all the leaks--in essence republishing even the now-
     discredited ones. But nowhere does she confront the basic 
     question the article raises: Aren't Starr's people leaking? 
     Nowhere do we find a Time reporter asking Starr what any 
     reporter would ask in any other story: whether he or Bennett 
     or anyone else in the office has talked to specific

[[Page H5266]]

     reporters who are the obvious beneficiaries of leaks.
       It's hardly an unimportant question. For in the entire 
     Lewinsky story there is a lot more evidence of Starr and some 
     of his deputies committing this felony than there is of the 
     president or Vernon Jordan committing a felony. The problem 
     is that the best witnesses--the witnesses with firsthand 
     knowledge--are the reporters and editors covering the story.
       ``We can't ask Starr or Bennett if they have leaked to this 
     or that reporter, because we are out there getting those 
     leaks ourselves from them,'' Time managing editor Walter 
     Isaacson later concedes.

                           tarring the times

       The White House spin people are out in force today. At 
     noon, on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, top Clinton 
     Advisor Rahm Emanuel charges that in both the case of the 
     Wall Street Journal steward-witness story and the Time's 
     Betty Currie story, ``lawyers representing those individuals 
     issued statements saying these stories are blatantly false.''
       Not true in terms of the Times. Currie's lawyer had simply 
     stated that all of the coaching interpretations of that 
     story--not the carefully written Times story itself--were 
     false. In other words, Emanuel has skillfully, and cynically, 
     used one bad story--the Journal's--to tar the Times story, 
     the facts of which no one had disputed by that morning (and 
     which no one has disputed as of this writing, and which 
     remains, with its accounts of gifts retrieved and testimony 
     reviewed, the single most damaging story for the president).
       This raises a larger issue. Because so much of the 
     reporting of the Lewinsky story would turn out to be 
     discredited, the journalism that should not be discounted by 
     the public will be. That's because the average reader or 
     viewer, especially when pushed this way by the White House, 
     will not be able to discern the difference.
     Day 21: Tuesday 2/10/98

                           a matter of honor

       Geraldo asks cowboy lawyer Gerry Spence about a ``powerful 
     man of a certain age . . . who is accused of accepting sexual 
     favors from an allegedly frisky young California girl. 
     Gerry,'' Rivera says, ``I believe you have some folk 
     wisdom to impart?
       Spence dives in: ``Why hasn't he told the truth about this 
     alleged peccadillo? . . . I was sitting in the little town of 
     Newcastle the other day and talking to an old cowboy. And 
     here's what he had to say about that. . . . `Well,' he said, 
     `Here's to the heights of heaven and here's to the depths of 
     hell, and here's to the dirty SOB who'd make love to a woman 
     and tell.' ''
     Day 22: Wednesday 2/11/98

                             Alone At last

       Susan Schmidt has another scoop, and it's a firsthand 
     report, not a leak. This morning she writes that former 
     uniformed Secret Service guard Lewis Fox says that he was 
     posted outside the Oval Office one Saturday in the fall of 
     1995 and he saw the president meet alone with Lewinsky for 40 
     minutes in the early afternoon. Schmidt makes much of this. 
     In her lead sentence, 40 minutes becomes ``Monica S. Lewinsky 
     spent part of a weekend afternoon in late 1995 alone with 
     President Clinton. . . .'' And that, she says, makes Fox 
     ``the first person to publicly say that he saw the president 
     and Lewinsky alone together.''
       But there's less here than meets the eye. Strangely, Fox is 
     paraphrased but not quoted in Schmidt's article because, she 
     later asserts, ``he refused to be quoted.'' It's a rate 
     article that is wholly about an on the record interview with 
     someone (and headlined as such) in which that person is not 
     quoted at all.
       But it turns out that Fox had been liberally quoted in his 
     local Pennsylvania newspaper and on Pittsburgh television 
     before Schmidt got to him, saying that, yes, he had seen the 
     two alone, but that he doubted anything untoward could have 
     happened because there are so many ways to see into the Oval 
     Office and there is such a constant threat of interruption 
     from people walking in.
       Why didn't Schmidt ask Fox if the two could have been 
     interrupted? ``I wasn't interested in his opinion,'' she says 
     later. ``Who care about his opinion? Clinton testified that 
     he was never alone with her, and this guy makes him a liar. 
       In fact, when the president's deposition in the Jones case 
     is made public soon after this interview with Schmidt, it 
     turns out that Clinton did not testify that he was never 
     alone with Lewinsky.
       ``This story was a perfect example of Sue Schmidt's 
     attitude,'' says Clinton aide Emanuel. ``Anyone who things 
     the president could do something like that uninterrupted on a 
     f--king Saturday is either in fantasy land or doesn't care 
     about facts. We're all here on Saturday at 1:00. We live 
     here, goddamnit.''

                   The Good, The Bad, and The Geraldo

       It is tempting to dismiss Geraldo Rivera as a sleazy 
     peddler. But he is also one of the smartest, best-prepared 
     newspeople out there.
       And tonight, as with many nights of his Lewinsky circus, he 
     shows it. Talking about Schmidt's Washington Post story on 
     Secret Service officer Fox, Rivera says, ``We note, however, 
     for the record, that the agent's story has become . . . [in 
     Schmidt's hands] far more damning since he first began 
     talking about a week ago. Back then Fox told a local 
     newspaper . . . that it would've been difficult for the two 
     to have had a sexual encounter while in the Oval Office 
     because of its many windows. . . . And we also note for the 
     record that every allegation [about] purported eyewitness to 
     the president and Monica's being alone, including last week's 
     account of Mr. Nelvis in The Wall Street Journal, has so far 
     proven erroneous.''

                         circus or town meeting

       Rivera's show is emblematic of these first three weeks of 
     coverage of the Lewinsky story. There was some good reporting 
     and some sharp analysis. But it was mixed in with so many 
     one-sided leaks and rumors that it was diluted into 
     nothingness--so much so that many opinion polls showed that a 
     majority of Americans believed the president to be guilty of 
     something he adamantly denied and about which there is not 
     yet nearly enough real evidence to know for sure, one way or 
     the other.
       Brokaw may be right: Americans may be good at filtering out 
     the reliable from the nonreliable. It could also be argued 
     that, in the old days, any town meeting would have had some 
     crazies and gossips take the stage or whisper among the 
     audience the way the crazies and prosecutor-fed gossips took 
     to the printing presses and the electronic stage in the days 
     following January 21.
       But in the end that only euphemizes the appalling picture 
     of the fourth estate presented by the first three weeks of 
     this imbroglio.
       Because it is episodic, the log presented above does not 
     convey that overall picture, nor does the more subdued 
     coverage of later weeks in this story.
       But you can remember it.
       It's a blizzard of newspaper front pages and magazine 
     covers and every TV news show and pseudo-news show giving 
     this story the kind of play that no story--none, not Princess 
     Diana, not O.J., and certainly not Watergate--has ever 
       And so much of that coverage was rumors and speculation, 
     that when a self-styled Committee of Concerned Journalists 
     did a study examining 1,565 statements and allegations 
     contained in the reporting by major television programs, 
     newspapers, and magazines in the first six days of the 
     circus, they found that 41 percent of the statements were not 
     factual reporting at all, but were ``analysis, opinion, 
     speculation, or judgement''; that only 26 percent were based 
     on named sources; and that 30 percent of all reporting ``was 
     effectively based on no sourcing at all by the news outlet 
     publishing it.''
       It doesn't take Woodward and Bernstein to know that most of 
     those anonymous sources were from Starr's office, spinning 
     out stories to pressure Lewinsky or other witnesses and to 
     create momentum and a presumption of guilt. I have personally 
     seen internal memos from inside three news organizations that 
     cite Starr's office as a source. And six different people who 
     work at mainstream news organizations have told me about 
     specific leaks.
       Here's more specific, tangible, sourced proof of the 
     obvious: For an internal publication circulated to New York 
     Times employees in April, Washington editor Jill Abrahamson 
     is quoted in a discussion about problems covering the 
     Lewinsky story as saying, ``[T]his story was very much driven 
     in the beginning on sensitive information that was coming out 
     of the prosecutor's office. And the [sourcing] had to be 
     vague, because it was . . . given with the understanding that 
     it would not be sourced.''
       And, as we have seen, Starr himself conceded to me that he 
     talked to the Times about the Betty Currie story and often 
     talked to other reporters, and he has all but fingered 
     Bennett as 1988's Deep Throat. Moreover, his protestation 
     that these leaks--or ``briefings,'' as he calls them--do not 
     violate the criminal law, and don't even violate Justice 
     Department or ethical guidelines if they are intended to 
     enhance confidence in his office or to correct the other 
     side's ``misinformation,'' is not only absurd, but concedes 
     the leaks.
       Worse still is the lack of skepticism with which the press 
     by and large took these leaks and parroted them.
       To be sure, that kind of leak-report dynamic is common in 
     crime reporting, where reporters make lawmen look good and 
     defendants look bad by publishing stories of mounting 
     evidence in ongoing investigations.
       Yet there's a difference here. In the typical criminal 
     process, all that bad publicity historically hasn't 
     outweighed the burden of proof and the ability of a jury to 
     focus on the evidence actually presented at trial. Juries are 
     famous for getting from ``where there's smoke there's fire'' 
     to looking at specific evidence. But Bill Clinton is not 
     going to have a trial with that kind of jury. If he gets any 
     hearing at all, it will be an impeachment hearing--which is a 
     political process, a process where all the bad effects of all 
     the leaks could count. And absent an impeachment hearing, the 
     president's continuing ability to do his job will depend in 
     some part on his public standing.
       Many now agree that it is hard to imagine that a powerful 
     independent counsel under no real checks and balances is what 
     the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the 
     Constitution. It is harder still to imagine that a press 
     corps helping that prosecutor in his work by headlining 
     whatever he leaks out--instead of remaining professionally 
     suspicious of him and his power--is what the founders had 
     in mind when they

[[Page H5267]]

     wrote the First Amendment. The press, after all, is the 
     one institution that the Founding Fathers permanently 
     protected so that reporters could be a check on the abuse 
     of power.
       And it is impossible to imagine that what the founders had 
     in mind when they wrote the impeachment clause is that a 
     president could be brought down by that prosecutor and by 
     that press corps, all because a Linda Tripp had a Lucianne 
     Goldberg got an intern to talk into a tapped phone about sex 
     so they could put together a book deal.
       So far, it seems that the American people understand this, 
     even if the press doesn't.
       So maybe it's the press that needs to draw lessons from 
     Pressgate, not its customers. Or maybe the customers can 
     force these lessons on the press by being more skeptical of 
     the product that is peddled to them. I have three such 
     lessons in mind:
       First, consumers of the press should ignore all 
     publications or newscasts that try to foist the term 
     ``sources'' on them unaccompanied by any qualifiers or 
     explanation. The number of sources should be specified (is it 
     two or 20?) and the knowledge, perspective, and bias of those 
     sources should be described, even if the source cannot be 
     named. (Is it a cab driver or a cabinet officer, a defense 
     lawyer or a prosecutor?)
       Second, no one should read or listen to a media 
     organization that reports on another news outlet's reporting 
     of anything significant and negative without doing its own 
       And, third, no one should read or listen to any media 
     outlet that consistently shows that it is the lapdog of big, 
     official power rather than a respectful skeptic.
       The big power here is Ken Starr. Prosecutors usually are in 
     crime stories, and the independent counsel's power is 
       This is what makes Pressgate--the media's performance in 
     the lead-up to the Lewinsky story and in the first weeks of 
     it--a true scandal, a true instance of an institution being 
     corrupted to its core. For the competition for scoops to toss 
     out into a frenzied, high-tech news cycle seems to have so 
     bewitched almost everyone that the press eagerly let the man 
     in power write the story--once Linda Tripp and Lucianne 
     Goldberg put it together for him.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 
  (Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN addressed the House. Her remarks will appear 
hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.)