The story of a naive intern, lust and love
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 1998
t began the way any sexual relationship might. Two people's eyes meet. They feel a spark. Flirting becomes kissing, and kissing becomes something else.
More coverage: The president: America judges Clinton Monica Lewinsky: The story of a naive intern, lust and love Capitol Hill: Congress sees through party-colored glasses Locally: Reaction of Floridians in Congress On the Net: Lurid details of affair disgust many Special forum: What's your take on the crisis?
The president: America judges Clinton
Monica Lewinsky: The story of a naive intern, lust and love
Capitol Hill: Congress sees through party-colored glasses
Locally: Reaction of Floridians in Congress
On the Net: Lurid details of affair disgust many
Special forum: What's your take on the crisis?
The heart of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's 445-page report, a bulky section titled simply "Nature of President Clinton's Relationship with Monica Lewinsky," describes in explicit detail the affair that now threatens the presidency.
The picture of Lewinsky that emerges is of a vivacious, determined, sexually adventurous young woman naive enough to mistake the president's libido for love. The president, meanwhile, is constantly looking over his shoulder for Secret Service agents and aides as he seeks gratification from Lewinsky in a private study off the Oval Office.
The following account is drawn from Starr's report, which in turn relies heavily on Lewinsky's own testimony before the grand jury. While her recollections often differ from Clinton's, Starr backs up Lewinsky's version with testimony from her confidants, White House aides, Secret Service agents, letters and e-mails.
* * *
It wasn't hard to catch his eye. Shortly after beginning her White House internship in July 1995, the endless stream of ceremonies and events around the White House offered the young woman from Beverly Hills the chance to sidle up to the president, shake his hand, look him smilingly in the eye. The president responded warmly. Clinton seemed to be attracted to her, Lewinsky told her aunt. And she had a "big crush on him."
In November 1995, congressional Republicans shut down the government in a budget fight with Clinton. All "non-essential" federal employees were sent home, but unpaid interns like Lewinsky stayed on the job. With many workers out, Lewinsky obtained unusual access to the West Wing.
At a staffer's birthday party that Clinton attended, Lewinsky made her first sexually explicit move. She raised the back of her jacket and flashed the president a peek at the straps of her thong underwear.
Later that evening, around 8, she passed by White House counselor George Stephanopoulos' office and noticed Clinton inside, alone. He motioned to her. When she admitted her crush on him, Clinton laughed and asked if she'd like to see the Oval Office. He ushered her into an adjacent study. "We talked briefly and sort of acknowledged that there had been a chemistry," Lewinsky said. "He asked me if he could kiss me."
After their intimate moment, Lewinsky wrote down her name and phone number for Clinton. She didn't have to wait long for a call. About 10 that same evening, Clinton brought her back to the private study, where he lifted her bra. As he fondled her, he took a phone call from a member of Congress.
On another occasion during the government furlough, Lewinsky delivered pizza to Clinton, and they took the opportunity to kiss again. The president took a telephone call -- apparently from Rep. Sonny Callahan, an Alabama Republican -- while Lewinsky performed oral sex.
He called her "Kiddo" a few weeks later when he saw her in the hallway. That made Lewinsky think he had forgotten her name.
But Clinton assured he hadn't. And they moved into the study for their third encounter.
* * *
Things began to get complicated. Secret Service agents and aides had noticed Lewinsky's frequent visits to Clinton, and word began to get around. Lewinsky, meanwhile, was yearning for a more personal relationship. "I asked him why he doesn't ask me any questions about myself, and ... is this just about sex," Lewinsky told Starr's investigators. The president told her he cherished their time together. To prove his interest, he reeled off her telephone numbers by heart.
But Lewinsky considered it "a little bit odd" for him to say that "when I felt like he didn't really even know me yet." During this time, Lewinsky spoke frequently with a psychologist, who advised her that workplace romances are usually bad news for all concerned.
The young woman did not heed her therapist's advice. Instead, she urged Clinton to get to know her better. And so, after their sixth sexual encounter on Feb. 4, 1995 -- a Sunday -- the two lingered about 45 minutes in the Oval Office for their first extended talk.
They enjoyed the conversations. "We would tell jokes. We would talk about our childhoods. Talk about current events," Lewinsky said. "I was always giving him my stupid ideas about what I thought should be done in the administration or different views on things."
Although Clinton and Lewinsky had never had intercourse -- their rendezvous involved fondling and oral sex -- it was Lewinsky's desire for more than a sexual relationship that may have alarmed Clinton. On President's Day, Feb. 19, he tried to end the relationship.
As he tried to let her down gently in the Oval Office, he took a phone call from Alfonso Fanul of Palm Beach, a prominent Florida sugar grower, Starr's report says.
But the affair never ended. The president soon telephoned her again and asked her to visit. Under the guise of delivering papers, Lewinsky entered the Oval Office. In her folder was a gift, a designer necktie for her man. In the hallway by the study, they had another sexual encounter, this time using a cigar as a prop.
* * *
By this time, Lewinsky's visits to the Oval Office were the whispered talk of the West Wing. Secret Service officers saw her come and go at all hours. One officer complained to deputy chief of staff Evelyn Lieberman that Lewinsky was a "nuisance."
Lieberman said she was aware of the problem. The decision was soon made to transfer Lewinsky, no longer an unpaid intern but a fulltime employee of the White House legislative affairs office, to an out-of-the-way job at the Pentagon. Lewinsky was crestfallen. She would no longer be close to the president.
But Lewinsky continued to visit the White House, with her entry often cleared by the president's secretary, Betty Currie. In a September 1996 telephone call, Lewinsky told Clinton she wanted to have intercourse. He told her he couldn't because of the possible consequences. They quarreled and saw each other only at public events.
At one such event, an Oct. 23, 1996, fund-raiser for Senate Democrats, Lewinsky noticed the president was wearing a tie she'd given him. "Hey, Handsome. I like your tie," she told him. By early 1997, their physical relationship was blossoming again.
* * *
Currie, the president's secretary, was playing an increasingly important role in keeping the affair quiet. She placed Clinton's calls to Lewinsky so there would be no record of him directly contacting her. She sometimes came to the White House for the sole purpose of letting Lewinsky into the Oval Office so there would be no record of Clinton's doing it.
A religious woman described as unassuming and motherly, Currie is a lifelong and loyal Democrat. But she soon became annoyed with her role. She was the middleman in Clinton and Lewinsky's frequent exchange of gifts. And when Lewinsky once tried to confide in Currie about Clinton, the secretary cut her off.
"I don't want to hear it. Don't say any more. I don't want to hear any more," Currie told her.
On Feb. 28, 1997, Lewinsky and Clinton had their first sexual encounter in 11 months. Wearing a navy blue dress from the Gap, she performed oral sex, and Clinton allowed himself to ejaculate for the first time.
"I was sick after it was over," Clinton testified before the grand jury. "I was pleased that it had been nearly a year since any inappropriate contact had occurred with Ms. Lewinsky. I promised myself it wasn't going to happen again."
Their last sexual encounter was March 29, 1997. Lewinsky was talking to Clinton, and he kissed her suddenly. "This was another one of those occasions when I was babbling about something, and he just kissed me, kind of to shut me up, I think," she said.
In May 1997, Clinton ended the relationship for good, angry that Lewinsky had told her mother, who had told her fiance, a major Democratic donor named Walter Kaye. The story was starting to seep out.
* * *
Lewinsky went through a stormy period after Clinton ended the relationship. She cried. She got angry. She came to terms with the fact she was never coming back to work at the White House. At the very least, Clinton ought to find her a decent job, maybe something in New York, she decided.
The president set up a meeting between Lewinsky and then-U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson for a possible job at the United Nations. Lewinsky turned down the offer and told Clinton she'd like something in the private sector. Maybe his well-connected friend Vernon Jordan could help?
According to Lewinsky's account, she asked Clinton for help in obtaining work, and it wasn't explicitly offered to as a quid pro quo to keep her quiet about the affair. In fact, she told her friend Linda Tripp that she didn't want White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles involved in her job search because of the appearance of conflict a government employee might have helping her.
All the same, the president worked to help her, at one point asking an aide to write a favorable recommendation to her. The aide never complied.
Lewinsky, meanwhile, continued to have feelings for Clinton. In a letter she drafted to Clinton but never sent, she wrote, "I just loved you, ... and I wanted you to love me back." She added, "You let me down, but I shouldn't have trusted you in the first place."
During this period, Clinton was facing two perils. The Supreme Court had refused to throw out Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against him. Lewinsky, he had learned, would be called by Jones' attorneys to give a deposition.
The other danger was a story that Newsweek was pursuing involving allegations that Clinton had fondled Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer.
With Vernon Jordan's help, Lewinsky in December 1997 had arranged a round of job interviews in New York. On Dec. 19, 1997, Lewinsky was served a subpoena in the Jones case. She "burst into tears" and called Jordan, who called the president and told him he would obtain an attorney for Lewinsky. Lewinsky expressed concerns about the gifts Clinton had given her.
But it was all falling apart now. The Jones lawyers, in their subpoena, had asked Lewinsky to produce very specific items, such as a hatpin Clinton had given her. How could they have known about the hatpin?
* * *
Her final meeting with the president occurred on Dec. 28, 1997, in the White House. They played with Buddy, the president's dog. She and the president had a "passionate" kiss, but nothing else, Lewinsky testified. She asked the president how he thought the Jones lawyers had learned about her, and he speculated it was through her friend, Linda Tripp, whose loyalties the White House had always suspected. She mentioned the gifts to the president and asked what she should do. "I don't know," he responded, according to Lewinsky. "Let me think about it."
Later that afternoon, Currie called. "I understand you have something for me," she told Lewinsky. Currie drove to Lewinsky's Watergate apartment and picked up the gifts -- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, some clothes, and other items.
On Jan. 7, 1998, Lewinsky signed an affidavit for Jones' lawyers swearing she had not had a sexual relationship with the president. The next day she interviewed in New York with MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., the parent company of Revlon, an interview arranged by Jordan, who sits on the company board. She was not offered a job.
Jordan then called Ron Perelman, chairman of company, who told him Lewinsky was a "bright young girl, who I think is terrific," Perelman recalled. Lewinsky soon had a job offer from Revlon in hand.
It was rescinded just as quickly. On Jan. 21, 1998, the Washington Post broke the story of the former intern's affair with Clinton. And Monica Lewinsky passed, notoriously, into history.