'This humiliation is my mistake, and his fault'

Five years ago the 'American Spectator' published the scandal, and was damned

ALL OF A sudden, this city has been enveloped in the charnel atmosphere of Watergate. It seeped into town the morning after Clinton's catastrophic apology manque, borne on the editorial pages of the great liberal dailies, in their columnists' laments, on talk radio and talk television.

This sudden diabolising of the Boy President leaves me with an odd sensation of ambivalence. His moribund presidency is to some extent a consequence of my own incompetence. As I am one of those Americans whom the President's wife includes in her "vast right-wing conspiracy", one might expect his present ruin to result from my competence rather than incompetence, but a blunder by me set in train the events that introduced to the world pretty, perky, Monica Lewinsky. I take no great pleasure in the President's downfall.

Let me explain. Clinton's entanglement with Lewinsky would never have been made public had it not been for an editorial oversight at the American Spectator, a leading organ of the vast right-wing conspiracy. I edit it. In late 1993 almost simultaneously the Spectator and the Los Angeles Times (then not part of the conspiracy, though now under White House suspicion - along with most big American news organisations) published interviews with Arkansas state troopers who admitted to procuring women for their adulterous governor. The pieces were scrupulously sourced and corroborated. These pieces and a second Spectator piece published a couple of months later contain all the spicy elements of the President's present scandal, including offering government jobs for sex and silence, misuse of state property for private entertainment and sexual trysts, and Clinton's original - and ludicrous - theories about oral sex.

Unfortunately for President Clinton the 1993 American Spectator was marred by my blunder. Accidentally we printed the first name of one of the women Clinton had tapped an Arkansas state trooper to approach. The name was Paula. Naturally we did not include her last name. But Paula Corbin, now Paula Corbin Jones, read the piece. It reminded her of the humiliation she had suffered at (dare I say?) the hands of Governor Clinton. Almost immediately she filed her sexual harassment suit against him. Endeavouring to establish a pattern in Clinton's treatment of women, her lawyers eventually came across Monica Lewinsky. When they submitted a deposition against the President they surprised him with detailed questions about her. Naturally he lied, though he was under oath. It now appears he lied again under oath in a far more important forum - a grand jury directly under the eyes of an aroused national media.

The press's uneasiness with Clinton had been growing since Lewinsky appeared on the scene in January. For seven months the President lied to the nation, denying his relationship with her and encouraging his henchmen to smear and harass his critics. When he made his disastrous 17 August address Washington's journalists and politicians suddenly had been pushed beyond the outer limits of their tolerance. In unison they shouted "liar". It is worth recalling that one of the elements in Richard Nixon's first article of impeachment is lying to the American people. And Nixon was not even under oath.

At the time that the first revelations about Clinton's reckless lifestyle were published no one would have imagined what a ticking time-bomb reposed in my mistakenly having allowed the name "Paula" to appear in the American Spectator. The troopers' revelations did temporarily put the President in the doghouse, for their testimony made clear that he was womanising during his campaign, after his election, and in brazen disregard for an oath he had made to the American people on the television programme 60 Minutes never to cheat on his wife again. Yet he survived the scandal handsomely and in his customary style. He uttered a half-truth or two, whined about how his opponents were ganging up on him just as he was doing some really terrific things for the American people (Hillary joined him in that line) and set out to shoot the messengers.

In this he had many allies, for the troopers were dismissed as low-life scoundrels. The Los Angeles Times reporters were grilled about their motives and practices. But the best smears were saved for the Spectator. We were described as a "hate Clinton" magazine. (Hate him? We hardly knew him.) We were denounced for being factually unreliable, though no errors of fact were ever cited and our critics' facts about us were frequently wrong.

Nonetheless in the Washington Post the liberal commentator Michael Kinsley accused us of "dishonesty" and "fundamental bad faith" (he called me a "dishonest person"). In Newsweek Joe Klein accused us of being the "purveyor of uncorroborated and hyperbolic accusations by a handful of gold-digging Arkansas state troopers". At the time Klein was gathering information on Clinton for his own sexually explicit account of the campaign, Primary Colors. It is inconceivable that he did not recognise the accuracy of the troopers' interviews. Other critics denied we were legitimate journalists. On talk shows we were reviled for publishing: as one duped Clintonite put it, "that slimy magazine article that revived all those old charges about Bill Clinton's personal behaviour".

My favourite assault came from your countryman Andrew Sullivan, then editor of New Republic. He lamented that the once intellectually distinguished American Spectator had been "reduced to pubic hair and women in hotel rooms". His was my favourite denunciation because in 1995, when David Maraniss's biography of Clinton reported that Clinton's womanising in Arkansas had delayed his run for the presidency, Sullivan was gentleman enough to apologise to me in the pages of his magazine. No one else ever has, and Maraniss did not even bother in his book to note the evidence that the Los Angeles Times and the Spectator had published.

Well, it is all out there now.

R Emmett Tyrrell Jr is author of 'The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton' and 'Boy Clinton: The Political Biography'. He is editor-in-chief of the 'American Spectator'.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Application Support Analyst

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has a fantastic opportunity for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £150,000

    £60000 - £150000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...

    Day In a Page

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935