'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
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride