Transcript: Linda Tripp on 'Larry King Live'
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, she blew the lid off a presidential scandal and shattered her life. Linda Tripp, for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Our special guest tonight, for the full hour, is Linda Tripp, her second -- I think your second -- your second visit with us on this program. It's always great to have her with us. We are in rural Virginia. When did you move out? We're not going to say where you live, so you don't get bugged. But when did you leave the city environs?
LINDA TRIPP: Last spring.
KING: Reason to get away or just...
L. TRIPP: Oh, yeah. But the difference is like night and day. It's private.
KING: Were you hassled a lot?
L. TRIPP: Oh, yes. And it never stopped, though. You would think two years into it, it would have stopped, but it didn't.
KING: What do you make of that?
L. TRIPP: Oh, the national soap opera intrigue. People are intrigued with characters from scandal.
KING: And you were -- you rolled the dice, you're part of the game?
L. TRIPP: Yeah. It's interesting how it completely changes your life because you can never get your privacy back. Your anonymity is gone.
KING: Once you lose it -- so you have to just face it, huh? But you can, though.
L. TRIPP: Look. You can tell that I've kept such a low profile. We've accepted almost no invitations. We don't go to the galas. We don't go to the Oscars. All the invitations that have been made available to those of us who were part of this, we just don't accept. I've tried so hard to get my life back. And frankly, I don't think it is possible.
KING: Well, let's take first things first. You look fantastic. We know you had some work done. Whoever did it did a great job, because what he did was he didn't give you the perfection kind of thing. But he made you look perfectly fit to what you were.
L. TRIPP: He brought me back...
KING: Was it a he?
L. TRIPP: Yeah, it was a he. He's in Bethesda. He actually did the corrective surgery, because my first surgery was such a disaster. And that doctor went on a 15 minute of fame television talking to tour, which was horrible. So six months later, I found Dr. Richards in Bethesda, and he is just a talented, gifted, wonderful man.
KING: Were you scared?
L. TRIPP: I was terrified. It's not fun.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) should never do that.
L. TRIPP: No. It's not anything I would recommend unless your reasons are solid.
KING: And your reasons were?
L. TRIPP: I was so shattered for my children. Kids are so sensitive about their parents anyway. And my kids always thought I was pretty. And they were so completely shattered by the John Goodman and the horrible press. And I just felt so badly for them. I just wanted to fix it.
KING: Didn't feel bad for you when they made fun of you? It was more for them?
L. TRIPP: I think you steel yourself and you steel yourself to say this doesn't matter to me. I was never one to preen anyway. I was never one to really think a whole lot about that. I thought I looked fine.
But yeah, when I saw the pictures, I was dismayed as well. But remember, when the country met me, it was five years, more than five years after I had really endured Clinton hell. And I internalized in such a way that I ate my way into oblivion to sort of cope.
I always say if I had been an alcoholic, I'd be a Bowrey (ph) Street bum. Instead, I weighed 200 pounds.
KING: Were they unfair to you, Linda?
L. TRIPP: Who?
KING: The Goodmans, the "Saturday Night Lives"?
L. TRIPP: Oh, I don't know. Look, we were all targets.
KING: That's parody in America, though, right? They -- of course, they certainly were rough on Clinton too, right?
L. TRIPP: Absolutely. No, no. I don't take it personally. I just know that it's hurtful. But it was hurtful, I think, for everyone involved.
KING: Well, we're going to cover a lot of that. How does it feel, though, to have a kind of a different look? Forget that what -- to just feel -- does it make -- does it make your personality different?
L. TRIPP: No, I don't think so. I think you can't look for it to do that for you. What it did for me was make me recapture the old Linda, the pre-scandal Linda, because I had gained so much weight during the Clinton years, just obsessing on these horrible things I was witnessing and didn't know what to do. And I'd just keep running for donuts. It was kind of my way to cope.
If you look at pictures prior to the Clintons, I kind of, now look...
KING: Like that.
L. TRIPP: ... like that, less the cheeks, of course.
KING: And you also had some dental work. Let's discuss that. By the way, you look fine, by the way. I know you're worried about your -- did you have a root canal?
L. TRIPP: I have chipmunk cheeks today.
KING: Root canal.
L. TRIPP: I had three. Yeah.
KING: The world's worst nightmare.
L. TRIPP: Yeah. It was horrible, and my face is swollen on both sides. So I thought...
KING: But you didn't cancel, Linda.
L. TRIPP: Well, no. I just figured, look, I'm not photogenic anyway, so this'll just be a little worse.
KING: By the way, you look fine.
L. TRIPP: Thanks.
KING: I'm not saying anything to butter up. You look terrific.
L. TRIPP: Thank you. Thank you. That's sweet.
KING: When last you were on, the first question I asked you was -- this was February 15th, 1999, almost two years. Are you still gainfully employed? I guess your -- I guess your answer was yes. Now the answer is no. What happened?
L. TRIPP: Well, first of all, I got -- I wasn't even gainfully employed at that time.
KING: You were paid, though.
L. TRIPP: I was paid. What happened? I was on official orders, actually, Department of Defense orders, to interview for a senior level government position in Garmage (ph), Germany, for the Department of the Army. And this had been in the works since October. And I was...
KING: After all the scandal?
L. TRIPP: Yeah. This past October. And I was rated one of the top three candidates for this deputy director position. I was so excited. They were treating me like a normal person, I thought, in Germany, because I visited my grandmother in the last couple of years. I'm treated very much like a normal person in Germany. They don't look at me as notorious, or famous in any way.
So I thought, oh, this is great. It was a great job. And when I arrived for the interview, they handed me the -- I'm going to show you this because this is unprecedented. And what this is, "Linda Tripp up for a Job at Marshall Center." Above the fold headline, unprecedented in the history...
KING: Controversial figure one of or...
L. TRIPP: And there was even a typo in the headline.
KING: Yes. "One or Four Candidates," interviewing...
L. TRIPP: They were in such a rush to get it in.
KING: Do you think this cooked your goose?
L. TRIPP: Oh, sure. Sure. There is no way. This is a sensitive think tank. It's a terrific bilateral German-American endeavor to teach former communist countries how to deal with democracy and...
KING: So did you know you were cooked as soon as you saw that?
L. TRIPP: Yes. It's more than cooked. I -- this was my last, best chance to resume my government career, and it was over. I now know it's over.
KING: We'll find out how they let you go and why they let you go. Our guest is Linda Tripp. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We're in rural Virginia with Linda Tripp. How were you terminated?
L. TRIPP: Well, actually, when I appeared for the interview, they handed me "The Stars and Stripes," asked me to autograph it...
... and told me that I had been fired. Showed me copies of "The Drudge Report" and actually a CNN report with the breaking news that I had been fired. I didn't know. I...
KING: Who fired you?
L. TRIPP: Well...
KING: Who fires someone in a government job?
L. TRIPP: The Clinton White House. It -- because it was a political...
KING: Not the Department of Defense? L. TRIPP: No, no. It's -- well, it's channeled through your particular Cabinet agency.
KING: So Secretary Cohen fired you?
L. TRIPP: Yes. But the interesting thing is that you have to define political appointee, which I was at this point. I had a 20- year, stellar government career. And I -- even when I worked at the White House for President Bush and Clinton -- I worked directly for both -- I was an apolitical civil servant, not a political. After I spoke freely to the independent counsel about Vince Foster, I was asked to leave the White House, and they offered me a political appointment, which...
KING: The Pentagon?
L. TRIPP: Yes. Which essentially ensured that in order to maintain my livelihood, I would belong to them. And it worked. It worked for quite some time.
KING: What was your reason for dismissal?
L. TRIPP: Well, they purport that it was a change in administration. My position is that I'm not a political appointee. You can't make someone a political appointee just to silence them.
I mean, I was a career government servant. I didn't go through the plum (ph) book and say, I did a good deed for Clinton, therefore, I'll get one of these thousands of jobs. I did the complete opposite. I was a 20-year veteran of the government, and they made me take a political...
KING: And they can get away -- are you filing any -- is there -- do you have a route to go?
L. TRIPP: We do. We're -- we have had for some time. We have now two lawsuits against the Department of Defense and the White House.
KING: Asking for job back or remuneration?
L. TRIPP: Well, I don't -- you'd have to ask the lawyers all the intricacies. I just know that what happened in the Clinton White House should never have happened to anyone. You -- you know, they illegally gained access to top-secret information about a -- a staffer and then, disseminated it to the media a week before I was scheduled to testify before the grand jury.
It instantly decimated my credibility. It did everything it was supposed to do. That's -- that's not legal. And the fellow who did it, who owes his very career to the Clinton White House, is now the boss of the -- I think it's called "Armed Forces Information Service," which owns "The Stars and Stripes."
KING: Is that a government job?
L. TRIPP: Well, yes. It's huge.
KING: And he's not a political job?
L. TRIPP: No. He started out as a Clinton -- he was a lieutenant colonel that never got promoted. And when the Clintons came in, he became a Clinton appointee and orchestrated it so he became career. So he's completely protected. He didn't even get slapped on the wrist for what the...
KING: Who was he? L. TRIPP: Clifford Burnatt (ph), who didn't -- the Department of Defense inspector general ruled and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department that he had violated the Privacy Act, intentionally. He didn't even get slapped on the wrist. Justice -- Reno's Justice Department held it for a year and then said, we decline to do anything.
KING: Your lawyers called your firing "vindictive, mean-spirited and wrong." Do you agree with all those adjectives?
L. TRIPP: And completely expectable.
KING: Do you get -- do you get a pension?
L. TRIPP: No. I've lost my benefits. I've lost my health benefits. I've lost everything.
KING: You have no income?
L. TRIPP: I think I'll be filing for bankruptcy. Look, I've never, ever been without a job. I've never not worked for the government.
KING: Therefore, having to do it all over again, would you have done nothing?
L. TRIPP: Oh, no, Larry.
KING: You still would have done the same thing?
L. TRIPP: I had no choice. I keep telling you, it was about the president of the United States trying to fix a court case.
Look, in the years that I worked for President Bush, who was a true statesman, I had become accustomed to White House procedure. It had exceeded my expectations. When the Clintons came in, it was from the get-go unscrupulous. And the things that happened -- I mean, this gift story now is old news.
KING: I want to ask you about that. Why didn't you quit?
L. TRIPP: Why didn't I quit?
KING: When you didn't like -- you didn't like Clinton. You didn't like...
L. TRIPP: I was a civil servant. I support the institution of the presidency, not the incumbent.
KING: Did you ask for a transfer out of the White House?
L. TRIPP: No. I didn't want to leave the White House.
KING: So even though you didn't like the guy running the White House...
L. TRIPP: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't have chosen him as the president after what I had seen.
KING: But you weren't like anti-him going in?
L. TRIPP: Oh, no. No.
KING: You weren't like crazed with...
L. TRIPP: I was excited. I mean, I was so sad to see my friends in the Bush administration leave, but it had been -- I had been so indoctrinated that my position was apolitical, that our job was to support the institution, our loyalty was to the institution that it never occurred to me not to welcome him.
KING: You mentioned gifts, which is, of course, now the buzz word in all the news.
L. TRIPP: Right.
KING: Are you saying this goes back to when you were there? You know about -- you know things about gifts?
L. TRIPP: The first week after the first inauguration, January of '93, I was asked to go to work directly for President Clinton in the Oval Office, primarily because I had worked for President Bush's chief of staff. I was not political, and I knew how the Oval Office ran.
Gifts were coming in from everywhere. You can just imagine a new head of state and gifts are coming. And because I was brought in, because of my institutional memory and my knowledge of procedure, I'm filling out the gift unit form. I mean, I know exactly what the procedure is. And they didn't want any part of that.
KING: What do you mean? They didn't want the forms filled out?
L. TRIPP: No.
KING: They told you, don't fill out the forms?
L. TRIPP: Take off your Bush hat. This is the Clinton White House.
KING: And you said...
L. TRIPP: I said this is the law. It doesn't matter whose White House it is, and this is directly to Bruce Lindsey.
KING: And he said?
L. TRIPP: The forms, at that time, didn't go.
KING: We'll be right back with Linda Tripp. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Linda Tripp.
All right, all these gifts -- every new president -- I would imagine President Bush has gotten a lot of gifts. When a gift come in, if it's -- what? -- if it's over a certain amount of money...
L. TRIPP: Let me -- it's been so many years...
KING: What's the procedure?
L. TRIPP: ... since I handled this, so I can only tell you what happened in the two administrations and you can draw your own conclusions. In the Bush White House, I remember gifts coming from heads of state. For instance, one was a -- just to give you an idea of the opulence -- from some sheik was a crystal globe, a Baccarat (ph) crystal globe this big. And the countries are all depicted by precious gems, not semi-precious, but precious gems on a 24-carat gold pedestal. It had a value of some exorbitant amount. Probably...
KING: Did you figure out the value, or did someone else figure it out?
L. TRIPP: No. It's done. I mean, it's all done very professionally.
In any event, you know, there's, obviously, the requisite "thank yous" and the gift goes to the gift unit. It's a present to the country, not to the incumbent.
We used to take little tours of the gift unit just because it was fascinating to see the gifts. I mean, there were everything from someone would knit golf covers to these opulent countries...
KING: And they can be loaned to presidential libraries, right?
L. TRIPP: I don't know. I've seen that recently.
KING: I think I've seen some at libraries, where they appear on loan from the White House.
L. TRIPP: And that may well be. I don't remember. I just know...
KING: OK, you fill out the form with the estimated worth.
L. TRIPP: It goes to the -- it goes to the gift unit...
KING: That was always the case in the Bush administration.
L. TRIPP: Oh, absolutely.
KING: Not Clinton.
L. TRIPP: It was floor to ceiling stacked with gifts that had come that were routinely sent to the gift unit. In the Clinton White House -- and again, I have to caveat that by saying I can only tell you what I witnessed in my year and a half with the Clintons. Most of it didn't make it to the gift unit. Now...
KING: You think it went to them.
L. TRIPP: I know on many occasions it went to them.
KING: Some of those opulent gifts?
L. TRIPP: Yes.
KING: Well, would you tell your friends? Would you be -- what did you say? You know, this has got to be listed?
L. TRIPP: Well, yes. I mean, look, you can only do your job, and my job was to ensure that they were aware of what the law was. After that, they're the boss. I -- you know, I was a worker.
KING: So I...
L. TRIPP: But that was one of so many different things that -- it's extraordinary to me that the media now, eight years later, after they're out of office, seem to -- and this pack mentality they seem to have say, whoa, this isn't right.
KING: But how would they have known that? That it...
L. TRIPP: Well, they should have listened to all of us who came forward, Larry.
KING: But you said you weren't coming forward about the gifts.
L. TRIPP: But I did finally. When I was -- when I was to the point where I knew he was trying to fix a court case, and now I was being asked to do the same.
KING: So you told about the gifts then?
L. TRIPP: No, no. No. That -- I only...
KING: That's new.
L. TRIPP: There were things that we discussed at the OIC. Yeah, the gifts are new. But there's so many new things...
KING: Are you -- therefore you're not shocked at any of the stories as they left, the tables, they're returning the rental office, the...
L. TRIPP: Frankly, I'm shocked that it's being reported at all, and I'm more than shocked that there seems to be, finally, a sense of outrage and accountability.
KING: Well, it deals all -- it broke around Marc Rich, don't you think?
L. TRIPP: But that again is so predictable. So predictable.
KING: Well, you must feel a little weird. Here's this guy on the flee and charged with all these crimes, and you are out of work. And you, as you see it, were trying to do what you were trying to do. So...
L. TRIPP: Oh, well, you know, it's interesting...
KING: How's it make you feel?
L. TRIPP: I don't know a whole lot of -- when this all -- all these stories broke, I was in Europe and not paying attention until I saw "The Stars and Stripes." But I did read that he was a fugitive and that pardons are generally for those who have been...
KING: Served their time.
L. TRIPP: Yes. And so I -- but knowing them, everything has, at its core, money -- everything.
KING: But he's never been known as a...
L. TRIPP: No, she is.
KING: So what do you think it is with him? If it's not -- if he doesn't know his net worth -- and they say he probably doesn't -- and money doesn't -- I mean, he's a fund-raiser. But personal wealth is not...
L. TRIPP: Right. No, I don't think money was really his motivator.
KING: What do you think was?
L. TRIPP: Again, I can only say what I saw, and it appeared to me that Mrs. Clinton had always two -- a focus on two levels. One was power, and one was money. And I think that this gentleman was a lucrative asset to them. And remember, they can do things...
KING: So follow the money ...
L. TRIPP: Follow the money, because what happens is they have traditionally been able to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their excuses. Do it, and then say, hey, that's old news, we're moving on. We're moving on, we're doing the business of the country. She is doing the exact same thing now that he did, which is I'm here to work for the constituents of New York.
So she doesn't really address it. She just keeps moving on. And it works.
KING: And then someone in your spot -- does that drive you nuts? Nuts that it works.
L. TRIPP: I am mesmerized, mesmerized beyond belief at their ability to fool all of the people all of the time. KING: We'll be right back with more of Linda Tripp. We'll try to draw her out in the next portion. It's very difficult; she's so inward. Don't go away.
KING: As you look back, Linda, you must be sorry that Monica Lewinsky ever came into your life.
L. TRIPP: You know, it was never...
KING: That part.
L. TRIPP: It was never about Monica Lewinsky. It was never about me. It was so much bigger than two relatively insignificant government workers. The reason he got away with it, the reason the country hates me, or a great segment through the media have come to despise my actions, is because they changed the subject so dramatically to friendship and sex. And when it was about neither. It was about obstruction of justice, subornation of perjury, witness tampering.
It truly was about the president of the United States trying to fix a court case.
KING: I think the reason, if there was hatred, is what America has never liked is...
L. TRIPP: A snitch.
KING: The snitch. They don't -- the Mafia don't like snitches, jailhouse snitches...
L. TRIPP: Right.
KING: People who tell on other people come in for a rap.
L. TRIPP: No.
KING: Would you agree with that?
L. TRIPP: You know what? Look, I have been a government worker for over 20 years. Over my desk has hung, for as long as I can remember, everywhere we rotated to as an Army wife, every job I had, the United States government code of ethics. The first tenet is that you should report corruption regardless of loyalty to incumbent or party. Loyalty is to the government. I take this so seriously.
So I don't see it as being a snitch. I see it as not being willing to conspire to fix a court case. There's something fundamentally wrong with people. Look, if America -- if being an American means anything, it means not having to lie under oath, not even for the president.
KING: But there are some who would say, what -- if adultery isn't a crime in Washington, D.C., so what? L. TRIPP: You know, that argument really frightens me. It makes me think of the National Organization for Women. I think they prostituted themselves. I think what they did was set their movement, such as it was, back 50 years. Because what does this send? What message does it send?
Any woman in this country, any woman who should file a sexual harassment -- a legitimate sexual harassment lawsuit -- has to -- has to be slightly afraid of reporting even grotesque sexual abuse based on what they've seen in Washington.
The president got a pass. This was abuse of a child. Don't ever believe that this was consensual sex. And he went to extraordinary lengths to cover that up. Criminal lengths.
KING: Abuse of a child even though she was over...
L. TRIPP: Well, look. She was -- I have kids that age. She was 21. Monica is 21 going on 14 on a good day. And she was a child. She was a mixed-up, unstable, volatile child. The notion that he would even dally with this child is beyond repulsive to me. But to do what she did, she was -- she -- I know -- I don't...
KING: You have no harsh feelings toward her, then?
L. TRIPP: No, none.
KING: None? She has toward you, but you never toward her?
L. TRIPP: Right. Well, I think she has to have them toward me. She doesn't want to -- and it's interesting they have this in common. Much as I don't want to talk about Monica Lewinsky, I will say she and the president have a commonality: a full sense of extraordinary entitlement and an unwillingness to accept accountability or consequences for their actions.
KING: And how, Linda, assuming all of this correct, does someone get away with it?
L. TRIPP: Oh, propaganda, the likes of which Hitler would envy. Look, the Clintons had at their disposal -- and no longer do, and you'll see a difference -- a taxpayer-funded spin machine that rivaled, really, Nazi Germany in its -- in its -- in its scope.
KING: You're comparing it to that in the sense of lying and distortion...
L. TRIPP: Well, lying, distortion, and an amazing ability to saturate and guide and mold the media to their spin. They changed the subject so dramatically and pointed the finger everywhere else that no one could hear. You know, my children said repeatedly, why aren't you out there defending yourself? Why aren't you out there defending yourself?
KING: Why didn't you? L. TRIPP: It wasn't about me. It was -- and who would have heard me? I felt almost like a deaf-mute. You're speaking and no one can hear you, because all they've heard is you're evil, you're evil, you're a villain.
They didn't hear all the -- all the events leading up to it.
KING: PR-wise, and we are PR conscious...
L. TRIPP: Yes.
KING: ... shouldn't you have come forward sooner?
L. TRIPP: Oh, in retrospect ...
KING: I mean, you're an up-front person. You're a good guest. You're responsive.
L. TRIPP: In retrospect, I wish I had. At the time, I was so completely focused on allowing the system to work. I had great faith that law enforcement would take care of this.
I realized over time, though, that law enforcement can't be effective if they've lost the PR war, because look where we were. We were in "let's move on." By the time I got to the grand jury, no one could hear me.
KING: Linda Tripp is the guest. We'll be back with more. Don't go away.
KING: How did you feel, Linda Tripp, when you saw Clinton make that now I guess most famous clip of a president, "I did not have..."
L. TRIPP: Sexual relations with that woman.
KING: How did you feel the first time you saw it?
L. TRIPP: Oh, terrified.
L. TRIPP: Terrified.
KING: Because you knew you were looking at someone not telling the truth.
L. TRIPP: Well, I knew he knew I knew he wasn't telling the truth. So it was more personal than that.
KING: Do you realize no dress, no story? Is that true? No dress, this could be denied today.
L. TRIPP: Right. As far as any other thing, though, all of their scandals, you know, that I've been accused of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and in attendance at, if there's never a proof, they're allowed to continue to go on until they get to the point where they can say, it's all the vast right-wing conspiracy or it's all our enemies who have conspired to undermine our presidency since before it began.
The reality is no, that's not true. The reality is I believe there has never been in the history of our White House such an unscrupulous pair as what I witnessed in this White House. And it saddens me to say that, because it besmirched the presidency.
KING: They were unable to find anything on the Travel Office indictable. Do you think...
L. TRIPP: No, that's not exactly true. They -- you're right, they chose not indict. But I believe if you read it, you will see that they essentially say that Mrs. Clinton masterminded the Travelgate massacre, and it was a massacre.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) too?
L. TRIPP: Yes.
KING: Did -- Maryland chose -- what? They threw your case out, right?
L. TRIPP: Joe Luther (ph), my lead criminal defense attorney, sort of forced their hand. Look, it was a constitutional issue. People should be allowed to document evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Where is the expectation of privacy if someone is conspiring to commit crime?
For instance, if -- and I said this to you in another way before privately. But if someone phones you in Maryland and wanted to abduct your children or had, and was relaying a ransom note or ransom demand, you would not be able to tape that conversation and use it against the kidnapper. You would go to jail. The kidnapper would go free, because it would be inadmissible, it's against the law.
I think that sort of restrictive law -- and Maryland is one of 11 states, I believe, who have a law like that, and Maryland's is even stricter -- protects the crook.
KING: Do you think what happened to you, though, will help the Linda Tripps of the future or not? Or the Linda Tripps of the future won't tape?
L. TRIPP: No, I see it in a bigger perspective. Why I am speaking now -- and you know, I haven't for a year -- is so that future Linda Tripps don't look at me and say, I could not endure that, I could not endure the ruin that speaking out as a whistle-blower would wreak on me or my family.
I want them to see that there is life after tragedy, after nefarious notoriety, and see that you can hold your head up. You must sort of write history so the legacy is accurate, not spun.
KING: Are you well within yourself now? L. TRIPP: No. I....
KING: You appear so. Much more than last time.
L. TRIPP: Yeah. I'm so relaxed and comfortable.
KING: You're out of work, you have no income, you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to declare bankruptcy, but you feel good?
L. TRIPP: You know, inside the important things -- my children are wonderful. My daughter, who wanted to be with us today, is on the dean's list...
KING: Your son will be with us later.
L. TRIPP: And a hard worker. My son is here. He's -- they are the joys of my life. I adore them. I feel I owe it to them to show that mom isn't this horrible caricature, that mom really is someone with a sense of principle.
KING: Let me name same people and your thoughts back on them. Vince Foster?
L. TRIPP: Oh, a wonderful man.
KING: Did you know he was depressed?
L. TRIPP: Let me relay a little story to set this up. Vince Foster, when I first met him -- and over time I used to say to him that he was far more representative of a Bush White House appointee than a Clinton. He was dignified, decent, caring, smart. When Waco happened, that's when I first knew that Vince was falling apart.
KING: How so?
L. TRIPP: I was with him -- well, we had CNN all the time, not to plug, but it was always on in the White House. And a special bulletin came on showing the atrocity at Waco and the children. And his face, his whole body slumped, and his face turned white, and he was absolutely crushed knowing, knowing the part he had played. And he had played the part at Mrs. Clinton's direction.
Her reaction, on the other hand, was heartless. And I can only tell you what I saw.
KING: How do you know they were involved in this? I thought this was a Reno action of which Janet played and felt very sorry.
L. TRIPP: This was...
L. TRIPP: Foster, Mrs. Clinton, Webb Hubbell, Janet Reno.
KING: And you liked him more for that? L. TRIPP: I always liked and respected. Look -- it's like anything else. Respect is not ever assigned; it's earned. He earned my respect from day one. And...
KING: You saw him right before he left, right?
L. TRIPP: I was the last one to see him, so they claim.
KING: What did he say, I'm going to get a...
L. TRIPP: No, I had already given him his lunch. He said, I'll be back.
KING: We'll be right back with Linda Tripp. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Linda Tripp. Some other people. Ken Starr?
L. TRIPP: I think just a terribly dignified, decent man.
KING: Also got a bad rap in this.
L. TRIPP: Oh, look, this is a man who probably had Supreme Court in his future. He's such a scholar. He's an educator. He -- during the height of this, he was still travelling by train to New York to teach a special law class.
KING: He never copped out on you?
L. TRIPP: No, I don't think so.
KING: Betty Currie?
L. TRIPP: I'll tell you a little story about Betty Currie. When I was first assigned to the Oval Office the first week, the Clintons had hired two secretaries to be his personal secretary, had offered the job to two. Betty Currie, who had been in Arkansas volunteering, and a gal by the name of Deb Coil (ph), who had been at the Rose law firm for years.
They ended up making Betty the secretary and Deb essentially kept the title personal secretary of the president, but really worked for Bruce Lindsey. Well, Deb was the workhorse, did everything. I mean, she was the most efficient secretary I've ever seen. Betty was at her loose ends. Didn't know what to do. She sat at this pretty desk right outside the Oval and didn't know what to do.
So she came back to me and I was working in the Oval office suite and said, could you tell me what my predecessor did? What's expected of me? Blah, blah, blah.
So I kind of gave her what I had observed in the Bush White House as some guidelines and what I thought she could best do to support the president. And she opined that she couldn't really find her niche because the worker bee was Deb. Nancy Hernwright (ph) was the true facilitator of the Oval Office operations at that time.
She said she didn't know where she could fit. Well, clearly she found out where she could fit.
KING: Which was....
L. TRIPP: Well, look, she became a facilitator. She was the only one in that Oval Office suite, separate from the protectors -- and that would be Bruce Lindsey, Nancy the aide -- who kept these things away from Clinton so he couldn't...
KING: So do you feel sorry for her?
L. TRIPP: No.
KING: You think she should have quit?
L. TRIPP: I think that Betty had to make a choice, and her choice was to facilitate these sexual encounters. And I think that that that probably wasn't serving him well and certainly not her own...
KING: Didn't you like Bruce Lindsey at one point?
L. TRIPP: A lot.
KING: You don't anymore?
L. TRIPP: No, it's not that I don't like him. I think if all of this hadn't happened, I would still think he was a great guy. I just don't have any respect for him.
KING: Al Gore?
L. TRIPP: Al Gore. I am really glad he's the former vice president.
L. TRIPP: I think when he came in he had so much offer, and when he left he had learned at the knee of the master and the truth was whatever he wanted it to be. I watched his metamorphosis for eight years, and where I could have voted for Al Gore eight years ago, I could not have voted for him now.
KING: Lucianne Goldberg?
L. TRIPP: I haven't talked to her in years. She's doing very well, I hear, on the Internet.
KING: Paula Jones?
L. TRIPP: You know, I've never met Paula Jones or spoken to her. I felt really sorry for her. I thought she was a young girl without a lot of resources to fight a man with that amount of power. And look, who was going to help her? They say -- they say, "Oh, she's part of the vast right wing or the Rutherford Institute," and I keep thinking I know from experience, where do you go? Where do you go? Where do you get help? You don't go to the -- you don't go to the Democrats, and NOW certainly wasn't going to help her.
KING: Our guest is Linda Tripp. I'm going to ask her what she would do, if anything, differently. Because one thing she did say already -- she would have come forward sooner.
Don't go away.
KING: In our final segment coming up with Linda Tripp in a couple of minutes, we'll meet her son.
What do you say -- what do you want to say tonight to America? Sum up something for me. OK. You're suing, you might get some money, you might get legal bills paid, you've got lawsuits.
L. TRIPP: Yes.
KING: What do you want us to know?
L. TRIPP: First of all, it's important to know that I'm suing the entity, the Department of Defense and the White House. I'm not suing President Bush. His Justice Department will most likely have to deal with Clinton's dirty laundry. But the law says you sue the entity.
I think what I'm most interested in getting across is to all those people out there who might have evidence of criminal wrongdoing, whether it's a high elected official or anyone, not to be put off by what has happened to me. I can live with myself. I have gone through financial ruin, personal vilification, the distress and dismay of my family. The pain is -- there are no words to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
KING: Yet you're telling people, "Do it"?
L. TRIPP: Because you know what? Inside I...
KING: You're sleeping.
L. TRIPP: Well, sometimes I don't sleep. But I know I did the right thing. And one day, I believe people will know that, too. And it's important for history's perspective.
So I would encourage them to have the courage of their convictions and to try, at least try, not to be overwhelmed. No one will ever, I don't believe, face the vilification I did, because they won't be up against the Clintons. KING: All right. You can't get that part back. But you're obviously, well, ready to go on with yourself. There is sadness in you, though, for your children, right?
L. TRIPP: There's a lot. Yeah, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
KING: Anger? Or you're past that?
L. TRIPP: You know, I was never really angry. I know that sounds crazy. I was very upset for my children. That -- and I felt badly for Chelsea Clinton, who also didn't deserve that. These are children, they're young people...
KING: Kids never deserve...
L. TRIPP: They don't. As I said before, kids generally want you to drop them off at the movies 10 blocks before the movies. They don't want mom in her polyester pants out there.
KING: We said you should have come forward sooner, and obviously you should have. What else?
L. TRIPP: What else? I wish I had done a better job. I wish I had had advisers. I wish I had had someone to say, "Look, this is how you need to do it, this is how you need to protect yourself from vilification so that people will hear you."
KING: Michael Isikoff, the "Newsweek" -- they were no help?
L. TRIPP: Oh, that's another whole story.
KING: I know, but I don't want...
L. TRIPP: People -- people have agendas. And if nothing else, I've learned that there are people in life who have a need to sort of bask and reflect in glory or to take credit. And I'm a very behind- the-scenes kind of person.
But look, I'm happy in my life. I have dear, wonderful friends here in Virginia. I have a wonderful family. I'm more centered and happy inside than I think I've been in 10 years.
KING: Are you going to go to work somewhere?
L. TRIPP: Who's going to hire me, Larry? Clearly, my government...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) won't hire you?
L. TRIPP: My government career is over. And you know, I didn't know that until I got to Germany and realized that even in a little Bavarian town surrounded by the Alps I can't -- I can't work. I'm now an oddity, a notorious figure. And...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) think tank might hire you.
L. TRIPP: Yeah, but you know, I'm not sure that my going to work for a conservative group would be the better of any solution.
L. TRIPP: Well, I think it just looks as though it always had a political agenda.
KING: But you're a worker. You've got to work.
L. TRIPP: I want to work. I've never not worked.
KING: We'll be right back. And when we come back, we'll meet Ryan Tripp.
Don't go away.
KING: In our remaining moments with Linda Tripp, we thought you might like to meet one of the members of her family. Her younger daughter, 21-year old, is in exams today at a major Eastern university. Couldn't be with us. But Ryan Tripp is here. He's 25 years old. Lives in Los Angeles. What do you do, Ryan?
RYAN TRIPP, SON OF LINDA TRIPP: I work at Icon Entertainment promoting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Southern California.
KING: You're in show business.
R. TRIPP: Yeah, not technically show business, but I get to see a lot of stars.
KING: What was the impact of all of this on you?
R. TRIPP: That's the most-asked question I get, you know, whether it be someone off the street or someone I've even known for a while. And it's unexplainable, but I try to say: "You wake up one day, everything's normal. You come home and do your laundry, and there's 30 media vans, you know, sitting outside of your house."
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your mother getting rapped?
R. TRIPP: I mean, it's like -- it's like getting kicked when you're down. You don't -- you know, it's not something you want to see, ever.
KING: Did you ever question her? Did you ever doubt her intentions? Did you ever say, "Why did you do this?"
R. TRIPP: Not doubt necessarily, but questions absolutely. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) also did. You know, just how -- you know, what went through your mind? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say, maybe, you know, just roll along with it. Let it go through.
But she said, you know, I did what I believed was right and I think it will all work out in the end. You know, I'm a bit more of a pessimist. And now after all this, I'm finally starting to see maybe there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and people are starting to get the picture.
KING: Did you know Monica?
R. TRIPP: Briefly met her once or twice.
KING: But you didn't know about what conversations...
R. TRIPP: No, I knew and my friends knew. You know, no one -- at least me and my friends didn't realize the impact this was going to have on the country.
KING: Do you ever think of telling your mother, "Jump off the train"?
R. TRIPP: I did. I was -- well, I didn't know. At that point, it was 20/20 hindsight for me saying, you know, maybe if you would have done this, we wouldn't have to deal with this. But at this point in my life, I think I've matured because of this and learned certain things. And I'm glad she did what she did.
KING: Do you carry anger with you?
R. TRIPP: Sure. Absolutely.
KING: At the Clintons?
R. TRIPP: Not at a specific person. Not at the media. But a whole bunch of people, you know, as a group, not a single person.
KING: So you think collectively...
R. TRIPP: I think absolutely.
KING: ... wronged your mother.
R. TRIPP: Yes.
KING: Aren't you glad to have this kind of stand-up kid, huh?
L. TRIPP: I have wonderful children.
KING: What do you think of how she looks?
R. TRIPP: I think she looks beautiful, but I always thought that. You know, I didn't think she needed the surgery. She told me -- she called me before she had the surgery and said she was going to do it. I told her I didn't think she needed to, but if that's she wanted to do, then she should do it.
KING: Now, how does this -- I guess this is almost impossible -- when you watch the "Saturday Night Lives"...
R. TRIPP: Right. You know, it's something that -- the thing about it most was I understand that people in the limelight get made fun of. You know, I like watching the "Saturday Night Live" thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) making fun of people and everything. But if someone that didn't want to be necessarily in the spotlight is thrown into -- is thrown into it, and it's not just out of humor, it's intentionally being mean, and that's what I don't like.
KING: Is your last name Tripp?
R. TRIPP: Mine? Absolutely.
KING: OK. Of course, I know that -- well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you've only had one husband, right?
L. TRIPP: Yeah.
KING: Because -- do you get a lot of, are you a Tripp?
R. TRIPP: Ah...
KING: That's not a common name.
R. TRIPP: It happens, not so often, but it happens, and you know, occasionally people ask me and I tell them. You know, and they ask me questions and I answer them.
KING: Do think things will change? Your mother thinks they won't, that she'll always be Linda Tripp.
R. TRIPP: I -- I never thought it would, you know, because I was the one pessimist, like I said, and she was the one who was saying, just wait it out, wait it out. And now, I actually do think things will change. I think people are starting to get the picture.
KING: Do you agree she should have come forward sooner...
R. TRIPP: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
KING: ... now that we know the real Linda.
R. TRIPP: Yeah, absolutely. If she would have come out sooner, I think it would have been, you know, a little bit more difficult to vilify her
KING: Who told you not to or you just didn't want to?
R. TRIPP: No one told you. You didn't...
L. TRIPP: No, it was me. I really didn't...
KING: Because you're forceful, and if you wanted to go on, you should have gotten on.
L. TRIPP: No, it was really me fighting the legal thing tooth and nail, saying, I'm not the story. Please let's not make me the story. And it was a mistake. PR, you cannot undermine -- underestimate the power of public relations.
KING: How about your sister? Does she feel the same as you or she handled it differently?
R. TRIPP: I think we both feel the same way.
KING: She's the baby, though.
R. TRIPP: Yeah, and she might have -- I'm a little more outgoing, you know, a little bit more in your face than she is. She's more low-key, but I think she's handling it well. I think in that kind of situation you can't be prepared for that, so, but I think, you know, both,,, .
KING: Are you in touch with your dad?
R. TRIPP: Yeah.
KING: How has he handled all this?
L. TRIPP: That's hard.
R. TRIPP: Yeah.
KING: He's a Tripp?
R. TRIPP: Yeah, absolutely. And in the beginning, he was getting phone calls and everything, you know, he had to have his number changed twice.
KING: Has he remarried?
R. TRIPP: No, but he's had to, you know, he had to change his phone numbers twice because of his name, like, you know, don't call me.
L. TRIPP: But he has been so supportive.
KING: He has?
L. TRIPP: Yeah, and, well, it's hard for him, because he -- he works with a lot of government executives, and it was difficult to have his former wife identified with one party or another.
KING: Well, you go from here, right?
R. TRIPP: Absolutely.
KING: Thank you, Ryan.
R. TRIPP: Thank you.
KING: And Linda, we wish you the best.
L. TRIPP: Thank you very much. It was great.
KING: Linda Tripp, her son Ryan Tripp. Tomorrow night, letters from Ronald Reagan, and Sunday night Katherine Harris, a repeat of our interview with the secretary of state of Florida. Chris Rock will be with us Monday night in Los Angeles.
From rural Virginia -- this is rural Virginia -- this is Larry King for the Tripps. Good night.
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