Clinton's Senate Trial: President still faces tribunal of sleaze

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The Independent Online
FOR MONTHS it had been taken as read that the composition of the Senate ensured that Bill Clinton, if tried, would not be convicted. But if the votes are not there to convict and remove him from office, the sharks of scandal, gossip and innuendo are circling - sensing, perhaps, that this President and this White House are injured and weak.

Last weekend saw resurgence of a rumour that he might be the father of a child in his home state of Arkansas, a child born to a black woman who was a prostitute in the months before the birth. There were also reports that Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, was preparing to publish unsavoury details of the private lives of at least one prominent politician. Reports that Hustler was preparing an expose on the man nominated to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bob Livingston, led to his admission of extramarital affairs and his subsequent resignation.

The Clinton rumour was revived after reports that a "supermarket" tabloid, the Star,had signed up the mother, Bobbie Ann Williams, for her story, and arranged for the son, Danny, 13, to have a DNA test. It also assigned reporters to investigate whether the sample given "matched" the description of Mr Clinton's DNA as found on the semen-stained dress of Monica Lewinsky.

The Star's latest story was reported - before it had been considered for publication - on the Internet by the anti- establishment "gossip" Matt Drudge. Mr Drudge, who is pilloried by the media establishment and infuriates it when, as during the Lewinsky saga, his "rumours" prove true, also peddled the story on his talkshow on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. The story was also printed on Sunday in the tabloid New York Post.

It was shunned by the mainstream media but was taken up enthusiastically by radio talkshows. From Wednesday the mainstream could no longer ignore it and used a White House refusal to broach the rumour, even to rebut it, to report the story that "everyone is talking about" but the media had "declined to publish". While the White House and media have tried to avoid discussion of this and other salacious and generally uncorroborated details about politicians' private lives, the Lewinsky case forced the lifting of at least some of the covers.

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