Michael Isikoff Discusses 'Uncovering Clinton'
Web posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 1999 4:57:52 PM
(CNN) -- Not since Watergate has a presidential scandal received as much attention as President Clinton's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. And, like Watergate, a reporter broke the story.
Michael Isikoff, of "Newsweek" magazine was that reporter. He talked to CNN's Carol Lin recently about his new book, "Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter's Story."
Carol Lin: So if you had to do it over again, knowing that reporters tend to be their own worst critics, would you do anything differently in covering this story?
Michael Isikoff: Oh, sure, there's a lot that I discuss when you look back on it, a lot of spur-of-the-moment decisions I made, a lot of things that you can look back and say I would do differently. And I talk about it a lot in the book.
But, essentially, I sort of lay out how the story unfolded and try to walk readers through how sort of key decisions were made. And on the major ones, I think I made the right ones and I think, obviously, my story, which is very much a reporter's story, as the subtitle is, talks about the kind of editorial decision making that went into first at the "Washington Post" and then at "Newsweek" as we approached this story.
Lin: Well, you took some of your own arrows from Clinton allies you who claimed that you were really just a pawn in a right-wing plan to get this story out. Do you feel like you were used?
Isikoff: No, not at all. ... The whole idea and concept of being used is kind of amusing because in Washington reporting sources seek to use journalists all the time, journalists seek to use sources all the time. It's a mutual game that goes on constantly in every story.
And this one was a particularly tricky one, but if you look back on it and you see how the process worked, you actually see that both I and the news organizations I work for, the "Washington Post" and "Newsweek," were very cautious and restrained.
And while people tried to get things into print all the time, they rarely made it until they passed our muster and, at the end of the day, all the information that did get out. So there's no apologies there.
Lin: What did you learn about the president in terms of his relationships with women?
Isikoff: Well, that's probably, you know, one of the major disclosures in the book, which is to try to put into context how all the Lewinsky stuff came up and why it was pursued in the first place.
And it really was not just to try to catch the president in an extra-marital affair or even lying in that case, but looked at it in the full context, a pattern of reckless behavior that stretched back many years ... and continued well into well into his office. A pattern of behavior that was guaranteed to get him into political trouble and there's a lot of untold stories that are in this book for the first time ... to try to explain that.
Lin: Such as?
Isikoff: Well, just to show how disturbing the behavior was to many of those who were close to the president, how they knew about this all the time. And a lot of women who have talked -- who are talking for the first time and explaining.
Many of these are people who are loyal to the president, who worked for -- Democratic Party activists who worked in his campaigns and were very disturbed by his behavior, as I say, going back many years.
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