Willey lied, says her friend

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The Independent Online
THE credibility of Kathleen Willey, the latest accuser in the Clinton sex saga, wilted yesterday when a friend said she had lied about the alleged incident - on Ms Willey's urging.

Julie Hiatt Steele said in an affidavit that Ms Willey had contacted her last spring and asked her to lie to a reporter from Newsweek magazine, Michael Isikoff, who was pursuing the story.

More specifically, Ms Steele said she was supposed to tell Mr Isikoff how Ms Willey had seen her on the day of the purported encounter in November 1993 and how, in a state of great distress, she had related being groped and fondled by the President.

Yesterday's twist was an unexpected bonus for the White House which has done its own work to undermine Ms Willey, notably by releasing serial admiring letters sent by her to the President.

In an appearance on television last Sunday night, Ms Willey propelled the sexgate affair into a new orbit with claims that the President imposed himself upon her outside the Oval Office, touched her breasts and asked her to feel his genitals.

The Steele revelation came in an affidavit given to lawyers in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. It seems that she did indeed lie to Mr Isikoff when first interviewed by him, but she withdrew what she said before Newsweek ran the story.

In the statement, Ms Steele said: "I told Ms Willey that I could not make such statements because she had not come to my house that day and had never told me of any sexual advances made by President Clinton.

"She [Ms Willey] repeatedly assured me that any discussion with Mr Isikoff would be `off the record' and that it would be all right if I lied to him. She told me she needed me to do this for her."

Further damaging Ms Willey's case, a supermarket tabloid said yesterday that it had been approached by a lawyer trying to sell her story for $300,000 (pounds 184,000). Phil Bunton, the editor of Star magazine, said talks broke off because he offered only $50,000.

"We've been trying to persuade Kathleen Willey to talk to us for about six months now, and basically some time in the last month Mr Gecker [the lawyer] said she might talk for $300,000," Mr Bunton said.