`Listen to me... I did not have sexual relations with her'

In a fighting statement from the White House, President Bill Clinton rejected all the allegations against him as false and said he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, the White House trainee, nor did he tell her to lie. As Mary Dejevsky reports, this was a high-risk gambit that places Mr Clinton's presidency on the line.

Bill Clinton appeared angry, tired, and almost desperate. He jabbed his finger repeatedly at the assembled reporters and spoke with deliberate slowness. "I want to say one thing to the American people," he announced hoarsely. "I want you to listen to me. I'm not going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never. These allegations are false, and I need to go back to work for the American people."

Later in the day, however, reports emerged to cast doubt on Mr Clinton's denial. CBS news reported that Ms Lewinsky had visited the White House at least four times last month including evenings and weekends, after she had ceased to work there. The last recorded time was on 3 January when she was denied entry. CBS reported that she "threw a fit" and screamed "Don't you know who I am?".

Mr Clinton was travelling outside Washington at the time. Four days later Ms Lewinsky gave her sworn denial of an affair with the President. Her lawyer, William Ginsburg, said that he had "submitted to prosecutors a summary of what she is prepared to testify".

This opens the way for a possible retraction of her denial in return for immunity from prosecution for perjury.

In another apparent attempt to show the White House is in control, Mr Clinton's lawyers asked a federal judge to bring forward Paula Jones's sexual harassment hearing from the scheduled date of 27 May, saying that allegations that Mr Clinton had sex with a White House intern called for a "speedy resolution".

The unequivocal denial was what Mr Clinton's supporters had been waiting for. His legal advisers reportedly counselled silence until the extent of Ms Lewinsky's charges was known. But, by yesterday, silence had become politically untenable.

Yet the Clinton who appeared in the Roosevelt room at the White House yesterday morning was not the Clinton of old. It was not the Clinton of last Thursday, who denied the allegations to a television interviewer, looking worried, downcast and bereft of power. That was the much-criticised appearance he had to counter.

But neither was it the Clinton who plays to the camera in all naturalness, gladhands his supporters and looks straight into the eyes of the people he talks to. He appeared to be perspiring, he had bags under his eyes, his voice was throaty and at one point seemed to tremble.

A late night spent preparing his State of the Union address, the policy statement that opens the new year session of Congress, was the proffered explanation. This made the double point that he was tired, but not from worry, and that it was business as usual. But it did not fully convince. And, unusually, Mr Clinton declined to take questions.

The appearance had been set up with care. Mr Clinton was flanked by his wife, Hillary, and his vice-president, Al Gore, to present a picture of solidarity.

But Mr Clinton's performance also lacked the old magic in stemming doubt and affirming authority. Afterwards, pundits asked each other "Did you believe him?", and answered with sophistry about the possible distinction between "sexual relations" (which he denied) and a "sexual relationship" (which he did not mention). The same was asked on the streets, where answers were less sophisticated, but no more reassuring for the President.

While polls show far fewer people professing support for Ms Lewinsky than for Mr Clinton (before yesterday's statement), his rating is falling. Americans appear to be waiting to see what she will say, if and when she breaks her silence.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?