Again, Clintons and media confront stories of sexual impropriety

December 22, 1993|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,Washington Bureau Staff writer Susan Baer contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- Once again, and at Christmastime, no less, America finds itself debating how deeply it should examine the private sexual lives of public officials.

The subject this time -- as it was two years ago -- is Bill Clinton.

Instead of an alleged former lover, however, his accusers now are four Arkansas state troopers who have told various news organizations that they helped arranged liaisons with various women for then-Governor Clinton as part of their official duties -- affairs that continued until the time he left for the White House.

"We were more than bodyguards," Trooper Larry G. Patterson told the Los Angeles Times.

"We had to lie, cheat and cover up for that man."

One of the four troopers, this one unnamed, also told the paper that Mr. Clinton had in recent months personally called him and held out the possibility of a federal job if he would refrain from going public.

Bruce R. Lindsey, a top aide to Mr. Clinton, confirmed that the president made calls to state troopers but said no job offer was made nor pressure put on the trooper.

It was this admission, however, that injected new life into an old story -- one that created enormous problems for the president. The allegations were denounced yesterday by Hillary Rodham Clinton as "outrageous, terrible stories" told by people motivated by greed and partisanship.

husband's presidency speaks for itself, and what he has done in just one year for America . . . ultimately, that's how the American people are going to judge, not some story that somebody promotes for their own financial gain or because they have a political vendetta," she said in an interview with Reuters.

Meanwhile, the nation's premier news organizations struggled with how to handle the story.

In several instances, in fact, news organizations appeared to be at war internally over the propriety of airing the new charges.

"We've been pulling teeth on this one," said USA Today's deputy Washington & World editor, Bob Twigg. "Our biggest concern is the fact that we can't independently confirm everything."

Overshadowing successes

The allegations have caused even more consternation at the White House, because they have come at a time when Mr. Clinton and his staff were touting the administration's legislative successes during its first year, basking in the president's significant rise in public opinion polls and celebrating the holiday season by throwing more than a dozen White House Christmas parties.

Instead they find themselves defending the president on a issue that they assumed had been answered by the results of the 1992 campaign. Two years ago, when a former television reporter and nightclub singer named Gennifer Flowers alleged that she had been Mr. Clinton's longtime mistress, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton faced the public together on a famous "60 Minutes" program that aired after the 1992 Super Bowl.

While Mr. Clinton denied having an affair with Ms. Flowers, he acknowledged that he had caused "pain in his marriage." Both he and his wife insisted that their marital problems were behind them, and the issue faded.

But the troopers -- Mr. Patterson, Roger L. Perry, 44, and two others who refuse to be identified -- allege that Mr. Clinton continued to carry on extramarital affairs during the 1992 presidential campaign and up until the time he left the governor's mansion in Little Rock for his inauguration.

Efforts by The Sun to reach the troopers were unsuccessful.

Detailed accusations

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the troopers told of a woman they would sneak into the governor's mansion in Little Rock after Mr. Clinton's election. One asserted that Mr. Clinton would meet the woman in the basement at 5:15 a.m. while Mrs. Clinton was asleep upstairs.

Mr. Perry, a 16-year veteran of the state police and president of the Arkansas State Police Association, said that the woman would often pick Mr. Clinton up along his jogging route and drop him off later in the route -- and that the troopers would needle the governor about his not having worked up much of a sweat. Mr. Perry said that Mr. Clinton would use the troopers' bathroom to splash water on his face and shirt to make it look as if he'd been sweating.

The woman denied to the Times having an improper relationship with the governor. But the Times also unearthed phone records of numerous calls he made to her as far back as 1989 -- including one of more than an hour and a half that was placed to her home at 1:23 a.m.

Trooper Patterson, a 26-year state trooper veteran who spent five years on Mr. Clinton's security detail, said he overheard Mr. Clinton use a cellular phone to help Gennifer Flowers obtain a state job.

Three of the troopers said they had been called recently by Raymond L. "Buddy" Young, a former captain of the governor's security detail, who was appointed by the president to a $92,500-a-year job as a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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