White House Strikes Back Against Willey
Clinton says he is 'mystified and disappointed' by former supporter's allegations
WASHINGTON (March 16) -- President Bill Clinton denied Monday he made unwanted sexual advances to former White House aide Kathleen Willey, as the White House mounted a counterattack against her damaging accusations.
The White House released letters, some signed "Fondly, Kathleen," that Willey wrote to the president after the November 1993 incident in which he allegedly groped and fondled her in the White House.
In the letters, Willey requests jobs and a White House Christmas party invitation and refers to herself as Clinton's "No. 1 fan."
Clinton repeated his denial of wrongdoing during a morning appearance at a high school in suburban Silver Spring, Md.
Asked by reporters about Willey's "60 Minutes" interview, Clinton said he didn't watch it, but denied he did anything improper when Willey came to see him at his office.
"Well, I don't know what she said, because I didn't see the interview last night, but I can tell you this: ever since this story came out months ago, and as you know, the story's been in three different incarnations, I have said that nothing improper happened," Clinton said. (544K wav sound)
"I told the truth then, I told the truth in the deposition," Clinton said. "I am mystified and disappointed by this turn of events, but it's been out there for several months, as well as conflicting stories from people who've discussed it with her.
"You'll have to find the answer to that riddle somewhere else. But I can just tell you that I have done everything I could do to clarify the situation," Clinton added. "I have a very clear memory of the meeting and I told the truth."
Willey, in a deposition and in the "60 Minutes" interview, has alleged Clinton hugged her, kissed her, touched her breast and placed her hand on his genitals.
At the White House, Press Secretary Mike McCurry was asked about comments by National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland that, if true, the president's behavior amounted to sexual assault.
"Of course they're right," McCurry replied. "Thankfully it's not true."
McCurry acknowledged there are "apparently two witnesses in conflict,"
though he refused to say Willey was lying. McCurry said he believes the president.
On its face, the Clinton-Willey dispute is a classic case of "he said-she said." Someone must be lying, and if Independent Counsel Ken Starr doesn't think it's Willey, Clinton could be the one facing perjury charges. Legal experts, however, say making a perjury case in a "he said-she said" scenario is extremely tough.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said it's up to the American people to evaluate Willey's credibility.
"The American people watched Kathleen Willey's interview on "60 Minutes" last night and I think they're the ones who should make a judgment about her credibility and is she telling the truth," Lott said. "Assuming that she is ... obviously there are problems here with the potential for perjury on one side or another. This is very serious."
Said Lott, "I think the person and circumstances are different from the
other allegations that we've heard about. And she certainly can't be described
as being part of the right-wing conspiracy. I have the impression she was a
liberal Democrat that was engaged very closely in the Clinton campaign."
Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) took to the Senate floor to say if Willey's allegations are true and the president was lying under oath when denying he made sexual advances toward her, that would constitute an "impeachable offense."
If the charges are true, Ashcroft said, the president should resign. Ashcroft said Clinton's moral leadership has been destroyed and he should give the American people a "full and candid accounting."
One of Monica Lewinsky's attorney said Monday
Willey's accusations against Clinton show that Starr is going after the president.
Bill Ginsburg said Lewinsky does not know Willey and doubted her
accusations would have any significant effect on his client.
"I am always hopeful that the more that the story turns to others, the more the pressure is off of my client, Monica Lewinsky," Ginsburg said. "But perhaps more importantly, I think it helps define the real target of Ken Starr's investigation. And the real target of Ken Starr's investigation is the president of the United States, not my client Monica Lewinsky.
"It focuses this investigation. It helps take the focus off Monica, and
all roads lead to president of the United States," Ginsburg added.
Lewinsky, the former White House intern, has been the focus of Starr's
Whitewater grand jury because of allegations that the president had a sexual
relationship with Lewinsky and then urged her to lie about it. Clinton has denied both allegations.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Janet Moore and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.