Willey v. Clinton: Who's Lying?
White House statement reiterates president's denial
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|Kathleen Willey speaks with|
CBS Newsman Ed Bradley
Thursday March 12, 1998
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 16) -- Former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey says President Bill Clinton lied when he denied under oath that he sexually groped her during a private encounter in the White House in 1993.
In an interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," Willey said she and Clinton were in his private study off the Oval Office when Clinton embraced her tightly, kissed her on the mouth, fondled her breast and then placed her hand on his genitals. Clinton has denied these charges.
She said the advances were unwelcome, that she did nothing to signal Clinton that she might be interested in a sexual encounter and that the president was aroused.
| Excerpts from Kathleen Willey and President Bill Clinton depositions.
"I just remember thinking, 'What in the world is he doing?'" she said. "I was just startled."
"I thought, well, maybe I ought to give him a good slap across the face. And then I thought, I don't think you can slap the president of the United States like that," said Willey.
"I just could not believe that that had happened in that office. I just could not believe the recklessness of that act," she said. "There are Secret Service people around, there are stewards around, his staff was around. I just thought it was extremely reckless."
Willey was meeting with Clinton about job
Willey, now 51, was a White House volunteer at the time of the alleged encounter. She told CBS interviewer Ed Bradley that she was meeting with Clinton to ask his help in obtaining a paying job because her husband, Ed, was having severe legal and financial problems and she wanted to help him.
On the day his wife met with the president, Ed Willey killed himself, though neither she nor Clinton knew that at the time of the meeting.
She said she felt comfortable approaching the president about a job because they had been friends since she and her husband were involved in Clinton's 1992 campaign. Ms. Willey, a Democrat who lives in Richmond, Va., donated money to Clinton's presidential campaigns and says she admired his political positions.
She told "60 Minutes" that she now believes she was "taken advantage of" by Clinton at a point in time when she was distraught, and that Clinton betrayed her friendship.
"Especially since he knew my husband also. I mean, he was my husband, and he was in trouble. And I was there asking a friend who also happened to be the president of the United States for help," she said.
Clinton denied Willey's story under oath
In a deposition he gave in the sexual harassment suit brought against him by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones, Clinton was asked about Willey's testimony that he took her hand and put it on his genitals.
"I emphatically deny it," Clinton said in his deposition, released Friday by Jones' lawyers. "It did not happen."
In his deposition, Clinton admitted meeting with Willey about a possible job and remembers that she was quite upset. He said he may have kissed her on the forehead in an effort to console her, but he insisted the incident was not sexual.
After CBS aired Willey's interview contradicting Clinton's testimony, the White House released a statement reiterating the president's denial.
"The president sought to comfort Ms. Willey at this obviously stressful time for her. He did not touch her, and she did not touch him, in any sexual manner," the statement said.
"Notably, over the last four years, the president and Ms. Willey continued to have a friendly relationship, and he is bewildered by her allegation. He has no idea why she said what she did or whether she now believes that's what happened. As the president has testified, Ms. Willey has been through a terrible time in her life and he will not speculate about her actions."
At the conclusion of Willey's "60 Minutes" interview, CBS ran a taped interview with Clinton's lead lawyer, Bob Bennett , who described Clinton as "shocked" and "bewildered" by Willey's allegations.
Willey: 'Too many lies being told'
Willey said until she was ordered by a judge to give a deposition in the Jones case, she had planned to take her story about what happened that day in the White House to her grave.
"It was just a bad story. It was just horrible behavior on the part of the president, and I did not think it was my place to make it public knowledge," she said.
"That was the choice I made. That was the choice that I thought was the best one. I was embarrassed for the president's behavior, and I saw no benefit whatsoever in filing a complaint," she said.
But now, Willey says she is going public because "I think that too many lies are being told, too many lives are being ruined. And I think it's time for the truth to come out."
NOW leader, Hatch say Willey may damage Clinton
On Sunday, a key feminist leader and a top-ranking Republican senator said if Willey's charges prove true, they could be severely damaging to Clinton.
"This is not just sexual harassment, if it's true. It's sexual assault," Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization For Women, said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"Now we are talking about real sexual predators, and we are now talking about people in power using that power to take advantage of women," Ireland said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said if Willey's allegations hold up, "then I have to tell you I think that this presidency will be over."
Clinton's lawyers went on the offensive on the Sunday talk shows, saying Willey has given several different versions of what she says happened and that there is evidence that "seriously undercuts" her claims.
Among that evidence is an affidavit given by a friend of Willey's, Julie Steele, who said Willey asked her to lie about the alleged encounter with Clinton.
Steele maintains that Willey asked her to say that Willey had told her about the encounter at the time it happened, when Willey actually had not. She signed the affidavit at the request of the president's lawyers.
Willey says she believes Steele was pressured into making the statement.
"I think that the White House wanted to try to discredit me, and they found a pawn in her," Willey said.
Willey says she was pressured by Bennett
In her "60 Minutes" interview, Willey would not discuss allegations that Nathan Landow, a wealthy Democratic contributor from Maryland, tried to pressure her to keep quiet. That alleged incident is the subject of an FBI probe, and Willey's attorney advised her not to discuss it.
But Willey told Bradley she felt pressured by Bennett, who met with her and suggested she would need a criminal lawyer.
"The insinuation to me was that Mr. Bennett was implying that I was going to face some kind of a criminal charge for perjury or something else and that I would need ... an inside Washington lawyer. And I didn't, and I don't," Willey said.
Bennett denied the allegation and told CBS if Willey said that, she is lying.
Willey: Tripp bitter and vengeful
Linda Tripp with Monica Lewinsky
In the CBS interview, Willey also paints Linda Tripp, the former White House aide at the center of the Monica Lewinsky controversy, as bitter and vengeful.
Willey says she ran into Tripp in the White House shortly after her encounter with Clinton in 1993 and told her what had happened. Subsequently, Willey got a part-time job in the White House counsel's office while Tripp was transferred to a post in the Pentagon.
A few months later, Willey says she had a conversation with Tripp, who made insinuations about why Willey had gotten her job, and told Willey that "they want me out of (the White House) because I know what happened."
Willey says Tripp "ended the conversation by saying, 'I'm going to get you and ... everyone else in this place before this is all over.'"
Tripp's lawyer told CBS that Tripp denies ever having said that she was out to get anyone.
Willey says she was singled out by Clinton in 1992
Willey also told "60 Minutes" about a previous incident during the 1992 campaign, when Clinton saw Willey at the airport in Richmond while on his way to nearby Williamsburg for a presidential debate.
She said Clinton sent someone over to get her phone number and that he later called her. He was having one of his recurring bouts with hoarseness at the time, and after she jokingly suggested that he needed some chicken soup, Clinton asked her to bring some to him.
But Willey said she decided not to go meet Clinton.
"My instincts told me he wasn't interested in chicken soup," she said.
CNN's John King contributed to this report.