It was an act of treachery which destroyed a young woman’s life and nearly brought down a presidency.
Civil servant Linda Tripp’s recordings of nearly 20 hours of phone calls between herself and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky became the lynchpin in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1998.
In the calls, Ms Lewinsky described to the woman she believed was a close friend all the lurid details of her affair with the sitting U.S. President.
Now, the scandal – and the story of the friendship between Tripp and Ms Lewinsky – has been retold in Impeachment: American Crime Story, which begins on the BBC tonight.
The first episode depicts the meeting between Sarah Poulson’s Tripp and Ms Lewinsky, who is portrayed by Beanie Feldstein. The ten-part show, which was co-produced by Ms Lewinsky, also stars Clive Owen as Clinton and Edie Falco as his wife Hillary.
In her calls to Tripp, the then 22-year-old told how she ‘fooled around’ with Clinton by performing oral sex on him, and also revealed she still had an unwashed navy-blue dress which had been stained by the President during one encounter.
After news of the affair broke in January 1998, the details went on to be recounted in special counsel Kenneth Starr’s blockbuster report into scandal.
By then, Clinton had already gone on TV to deny having ‘sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky’.
And the dress, which Tripp had encouraged Ms Lewinsky not to clean in case it was needed as an ‘insurance policy’ – whilst knowing it might later be used as evidence – was also obtained by Starr as part of his investigation.
Tripp, who died from pancreatic cancer in April last year, told Daily Mail TV in 2017 that she felt ‘compelled to act’, even though it meant ‘shattering Monica’s dreams’, because she believed Clinton was a ‘sexual predator’.
Whilst Clinton ultimately survived the impeachment proceedings and was not forced to resign, the scandal defined his entire presidency and became a global media storm.
It was an act of treachery which destroyed a young woman’s life and nearly brought down a presidency. Civil servant Linda Tripp’s recordings of nearly 20 hours of phone calls between herself and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky became the lynchpin in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1998. Above: Tripp and Ms Lewinsky together
In the calls – which were recorded from September 1997 – Ms Lewinsky described to the woman she believed was a close friend all the lurid details of her affair with the sitting U.S. President. Pictured: Ms Lewinsky with Clinton during her time at the White House
After news of the affair broke in January 1998, the details went on to be recounted in special counsel Kenneth Starr’s blockbuster report into scandal. By then, Clinton had already gone on TV to deny having ‘sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky’
Linda Tripp’s conversations with Monica Lewinsky
Linda Tripp recorded nearly 20 hours of conversations with her friend Monica Lewinsky, before revealing them to the world.
They discussed in lurid detail Ms Lewinsky’s affair with Bill Clinton.
Also heard were tears of despair over the fact that Clinton had gone weeks without calling her.
On her sexual encounters with Clinton
LEWINSKY: We didn’t have sex Linda!
TRIPP: Well what do you call it?
LEWINSKY: We fooled around!
On the stained dress
TRIPP: …This navy blue dress. Now all I would say to you is: I know how you feel today and I know why you feel the way you do today, but you have a very long life ahead of you. …I would rather you had that in your possession if you need it years from now. That’s all I’m gonna say.
LEWINSKY: You think that I can hold onto a dress for 10, 15 years with (REDACTED) from…
TRIPP: … It could be your only insurance policy down the road. Or it could never be needed and you can throw it away. But I- I never, ever want to read about your going off the deep end because someone comes out and calls you a stalker or something and you have and he confirms it. … Maybe I’m being paranoid. …
On him not calling her
LEWINSKY: Linda, I can’t take it anymore.
TRIPP: I know. I know.
LEWINSKY: (Crying) It’s just too _ it’s too much for one person. (Crying).
TRIPP: Oh, it is too much for one person. …
… LEWINSKY: I go to work every day (crying) and I just (crying), I’m trying to keep it together and I just can’t.
TRIPP: You’ve been a trouper through this, Monica, and you’ve been through _
TRIPP: It just seems as though because the frigging buffer zone, you can never communicate directly with him until he chooses to.
Ms Lewinsky’s affair with Clinton began after she got a job in the White House as an intern in 1995, working first for the President’s chief of staff Leon Panetta.
The intern later stated that they had a total of nine sexual encounters between November 1995 and March 1997.
In one, they snuck off to kiss in his private study during a White House employee’s birthday party.
In another, Ms Lewinsky performed oral sex on the President while he was on the phone.
The former intern, who is now aged 48, went on to state that she had nine sexual encounters with Clinton in the Oval Office, with the last one occurring in March 1997.
Ms Lewinsky met Tripp in April 1996, after she was transferred to the Pentagon – where the older woman worked after herself being moved from the White House – by her boss, who was concerned she was too friendly with the President.
Tonight’s episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story depicts the beginning of their relationship and ends with the moment Clinton calls Ms Lewinsky to ask: ‘How was your first day?’
As their friendship progressed, Ms Lewinsky revealed details of her past encounters with Clinton, as well as her torment over whether she would be transferred back to the White House.
Tripp, who was 24 years older than her friend, began recording her phone calls with Ms Lewinsky after consulting with literary agent Lucianne Goldberg.
Over the course of their hours of intimate conversations, Ms Lewinsky ultimately revealed information that would see her vilified by much of the US media when it became public.
She also repeatedly broke down in tears to Tripp as she spoke of her torment that Clinton was not calling her frequently enough and her fears that she would not be allowed to return to the White House.
The scandal came to light as a result of another case – when former Arkansas civil servant Paula Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment in 1994.
She claimed that when the politician was governor of the state, he had sexually propositioned her and exposed himself.
Jones’s lawyers then summoned to court other women who had worked for Clinton who they suspected he had had affairs with – including Ms Lewinsky – in the hope of showing a pattern of behaviour.
Clinton’s claim under oath that he had never had ‘sexual relations’ with Ms Lewinsky was ultimately blown apart by Tripp’s recordings, which she passed on to Starr.
The prosecutor had been investigating Clinton over an unrelated property deal but, on receiving the reams of new evidence, he obtained permission to expand his investigation.
After famously going on TV to again deny an affair with Ms Lewinsky, Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice.
He denied having committing perjury and said the definition of oral sex was not encompassed by ‘sex’.
Clinton did then admit to having to having a relationship with Ms Lewinsky that was ‘not appropriate’.
Now, the scandal – and the story of the friendship between Tripp and Ms Lewinsky – has been retold in Impeachment: American Crime Story, which begins on the BBC tonight
Friend or foe? Sarah Paulson Linda Tripp, who exposed the affair. The role required extensive makeup and prosthetic effects for her face, and she also wore padding under her costume
The first episode depicts the meeting between Sarah Poulson’s Tripp and Ms Lewinsky, who is portrayed by Beanie Feldstein
Iconic: British actor Clive Owen (left) recreates the infamous moment Bill Clinton (right) addressed the nation claiming he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky
Clinton’s wife Hillary is portrayed by Edie Falco (pictured left). The show has already aired to critical acclaim in the US. Right: Mrs Clinton listening to her husband’s denials of sexual activity with Ms Lewinsky
Tripp, who was 24 years older than her friend, began recording her phone calls with Ms Lewinsky after consulting with literary agent Lucianne Goldberg (left). She is portrayed in the new TV drama by Margo Martindale
Whilst he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate, it was the semi-pornographic detail laid out in Starr’s report which robbed Ms Lewinsky of her dignity and made her the subject of ridicule.
She later told how she was the ‘Patient Zero of internet shaming’, adding that she was ‘branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo.’
Tripp’s decision to betray Ms Lewinsky’s trust by recording their private calls destroyed their friendship overnight.
When delivering her testimony in front of a grand jury, Ms Lewinsky made her feelings clear.
Asked if she had anything to add, Ms Lewinsky said: ‘I’m really sorry for everything that’s happened. And I hate Linda Tripp.’
Tripp later denied that she was even close with her Pentagon colleague, telling Fox News that it ‘wasn’t a friendship’. She added: ‘I wasn’t her mother on any level’.
The first episode of the new series, which is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, shows the moment that Lewinsky is met by two FBI agents after Tripp had come forward with her recordings.
Ms Lewinsky is seen screaming telling the agents that ‘I want that treacherous b***h to see what she did to me’ as they try to remove Tripp from the next room.
The case made headlines around the world for days. Above: The Daily Mail’s coverage on January 23, 1998
Ms Lewinsky’s affair with Clinton began after she got a job in the White House as an intern in 1995, working first for the President’s chief of staff Leon Panetta. Above: The pair meeting at an event filmed by TV cameras
President Clinton greets Monica Lewinsky at a Washington fundraising event in October 1996
Bill Clinton hugs Monica Lewinsky at the Democratic Fundraiser in Washington, DC, October 23, 1996
Because she was a political appointee, Tripp was dismissed from her job at the Pentagon on the final day of the Clinton administration in 2001.
She and her first husband, Bruce Tripp, had divorced in 1990 after having a son and daughter together.
In 2004, she remarried and settled on a farm in Middleburg, Virginia.
Prior to being moved to the Pentagon in 1994, Tripp had worked in the White House during the administration of George Bush Senior.
Speaking of her actions in 2018, Tripp said: ‘It was always about right and wrong, never left and right
Clinton Library video of a 1997 photo op where Monica Lewinsky is seen with President Bill Clinton in the White House’s Oval Office
Ms Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon in April 1996 by her boss at the White House, who was concerned she had become too close to the President
‘It was about exposing perjury and the obstruction of justice,’ she continued. ‘It was never about politics.’
Tripp told Daily Mail TV in 2017 that she was manipulative by getting Ms Lewinsky to speak about the one-and-a-half-year involvement with Clinton so she could record it.
But she maintained it was not to hurt the younger woman.
When news emerged of her former friend’s illness, Ms Lewinsky put the past behind her when she commented on social media.
She said on social media: ‘No matter the past, upon hearing that Linda Tripp is very seriously ill, I hope for her recovery.’
Linda Tripp passed away in April last year after suffering from pancreatic cancer. Above: She is seen speaking to Daily Mail TV in 2017
‘I can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.’
Since the scandal, Ms Lewinsky has become an anti-bullying activist, television personality and fashion designer.
Impeachment: An American Crime Story has been co-produced by Ms Lewinsky herself.
She insisted during the show’s production that it should not shy away from scenes which portray her in a negative light.
The scriptwriter had initially left out an infamous scene in which Ms Lewinsky flashed a glimpse of her thong at Clinton for fear of ‘re-traumatising’ her, but she insisted that it go back in.
Timeline: Clinton, Lewinsky and the scandal that almost brought down a president
January 20, 1993: Bill Clinton is inaugurated as the nation’s 42nd president
May 6, 1994: Former Arkansas employee Paula Jones files a sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, claiming he propositioned her three years earlier when he was state governor
June 1995: Lewinsky begins working as a White House intern for the chief of staff
November 15, 1995: Amidst a government shutdown, Lewinsky is called in to help man the phone lines. A surprise birthday party for a White House staffer unfolds, and Lewinsky gives the president a peek of her thong. The two snuck off to kiss in his private study, and reunited later that evening for a steamier encounter
November 17, 1995: Lewinsky delivers Clinton a slice of pizza, at his request, to his private study and performs oral sex while he takes a phone call
December 1995: She begins working for pay as an employee at the White House’s legislative affairs office
December 31, 1995: The tryst continued when Lewinsky bumped into the president outside the Oval Office. She said they snuck into the study together for a third intimate encounter
April 5, 1996: The on-again, off-again illicit affair continues, but Lewinsky is transferred to the Pentagon by her boss, who thinks she is too friendly with the president
February 28, 1997: Lewinsky accompanies Clinton to a radio show, poses for a picture with him, and later meets him in his study for sex. The sexual encounter, the first in nearly a year, leaves a semen statin on Lewinsky’s blue dress
May 27, 1997: The Supreme Court allows Jones’ civil lawsuit against Clinton to move forward
July 4, 1997: More than two years into their secret romance, Lewinsky warns Clinton about an impending article that includes claims of Clinton groping a woman in the White House. Linda Tripp’s name enters the narrative, after it’s revealed the Pentagon employee tipped Lewinsky off about the Newsweek piece.
September, 1997: Lewinsky dishes the salacious details of her affair to colleague Tripp, not knowing she’s being recorded
December 19, 1997: Lewinsky is subpoenaed to testify in the Jones lawsuit
January 5, 1998: Clinton and Lewinsky engage in their final telephone call, during which they strategize how she should respond to questions during the Jones trial
January 7, 1998: Lewinsky signs an affidavit in the Jones case, claiming she never had sex with the president
January 17, 1998: Clinton, who was deposed to testify in the case, denied having ‘sexual relations’ with Lewinsky
January 1998: Tripp, after learning of Lewinsky’s signed affidavit, turned over her secret recordings to lawyer Ken Starr, who was investigating the president on unrelated matters
July 28, 1998: Lewinsky hands over the now-infamous blue dress, which Tripp previously convinced her not to dry clean, and agrees to testify before a grand jury in exchange for transactional immunity
August 17, 1998: Clinton admits to his inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.
October 2, 1998 – Transcripts of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp’s taped phone conversations are released
December 11, 1998 – The House Judiciary committee votes to impeach, approving two articles of impeachment, including lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice
December 12, 1998 – Clinton says he won’t resign and denies lying under oath
December 19, 1998 – The House of Representatives votes to impeach President Clinton. Clinton vows to remain in office until ‘the last hour of the last day of my term’
January 7, 1999 – The Senate begins its trial of President Clinton
February 12, 1999 – The Senate acquits President Clinton on both charges of perjury and obstruction of justice