Tripp didn't want expose in book deal, lawyer says But ghostwriter says she wrote just what Clinton aide told her

March 05, 1998|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Linda R. Tripp backed out of a project in 1995 to write a nonfiction book about the White House after a conservative columnist who ghostwrote the proposal for the book turned in a "sensational expose," Tripp's lawyer said yesterday.

Her lawyer, Anthony Zaccagnini, said in a statement yesterday that the draft "substantially conflicted with Linda's intention to present a factual account. Linda ultimately decided to withdraw from the project because of the obvious sensationalism of the subject matter by the ghostwriter."

But the nationally syndicated columnist, Maggie Gallagher, said Tripp dropped the project out of fear that she would lose her job and become the subject of a smear campaign by the Clinton White House. Gallagher denied that she sensationalized the material Tripp gave her.

"I viewed my job as writing her story as she saw it," Gallagher said yesterday in a phone interview from her home in Westchester, N.Y. "I don't make up stories under any circumstances, and not in this one either."

Gallagher, 37, the author of two books on the decline of family and marriage and a leading proponent of reforming no-fault divorce, said she was approached by Lucianne Goldberg, a New York literary agent, and asked whether she would ghostwrite Tripp's book.

Over a period of about six weeks in 1995, Gallagher said, she had extensive conversations with Tripp, the Clinton administration official who sparked the current White House sex scandal by tape-recording conversations in which a co-worker, Monica Lewinsky, described an alleged sexual relationship with President Clinton.

Gallagher, who used a title of "Behind Closed Doors" for the proposal, said Tripp wanted to write the book because "she felt public officials were saying things that were not true. People who testified in the course of a variety of scandals were not telling the truth."

"At first, she found it puzzling" that numerous officials were lying, Gallagher said of Tripp. "Then she got angry, and then she felt she had a responsibility."

In a statement several weeks ago, Tripp said that she had wanted to write a book that was a "factual account of life and work in the White House during the Bush and Clinton administrations which would allow the public to draw its own conclusions."

Cold feet

Gallagher said it was her impression that Tripp got cold feet. "What Linda told me was that she was afraid of going on with the project because she feared losing her job, she didn't want to be smeared, she worried about her reputation and she was afraid of retaliation," Gallagher said.

"My strong impression is she didn't want to take the risk of telling the truth and getting hurt."

Tripp, a political appointee at the Pentagon who earns $88,000 a year, has said similarly that she taped Lewinsky out of fear that she would lose her job and be called a liar if she told lawyers the truth about Clinton's conduct.

Zaccagnini conceded yesterday that fear of retaliation "was certainly part of" Tripp's decision to drop the project, but he said his client also had "stylistic concerns."

Conservative writer

Gallagher is a conservative whose last book, "The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love," was published by Regnery Press, a conservative publishing house with numerous anti-Clinton titles on its shelves, including "The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton" by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

A 1982 Yale graduate, Gallagher is an affiliate scholar with the Institute for American Values and writes a column, usually on social issues, carried in about 80 newspapers, including the New York Post and the Washington Times.

Though Gallagher has not written about her association with Tripp -- out of a confidentiality agreement with the Columbia resident, she says -- she has written often about the Lewinsky scandal.

"[I]f these allegations are true," she wrote in a January column, "Bill Clinton is a serial adulterer of the most flagrant kind, without remorse, without even the rudimentary decency of keeping his mistresses out of his wife's home, which is, after all, what the White House is.

Steamy account

In one passage of the book proposal cited by Newsweek this week, a chapter titled "The President's Women" begins with a woman describing her encounter with Clinton in a hallway just off the Oval Office.

The scene -- which appears similar to an incident that Kathleen Willey, a former White House assistant, said actually happened to her -- includes this dialogue:

"What if Hillary comes in?"

"I've got that covered," the president responds.

Gallagher said that passage was based on an account of a "grope session" that Tripp described to her.

"That is not inconsistent with what [Tripp] told me," Gallagher said. "I made up nothing."

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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