He-said, she-said, accounts vary among media outlets

August 06, 1998|By David Shaw

DID MONICA Lewinsky agree to tell the grand jury that President Clinton encouraged her to lie about their relationship?

Your answer depends on where you get your news. In essence, the New York Times said yes, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times said no, and virtually every other major news organization was somewhere in-between -- including the Wall Street Journal, which avoided characterizing her potential testimony altogether.

Attributing their information to various sources familiar with the negotiations between Ms. Lewinsky and independent counsel Kenneth Starr, this is what various news organizations reported:

Times version

The New York Times: Under the headline, "Lewinsky, Given Immunity, Reportedly Agrees to Tell of Pact with Clinton to Lie," said she had "promised to testify that she and President Clinton had agreed to deny that they had a sexual relationship."

The Washington Post reported that Ms. Lewinsky "would not testify that Clinton directly asked her to lie under oath during the Paula Jones lawsuit, but she has told prosecutors that they came up with 'cover stories' to conceal an affair."

The Los Angeles Times said, "Lewinsky has repeated to prosecutors what she has insisted upon from the beginning, that neither the president nor anyone associated with him instructed tTC her to lie." (The next day, the Los Angeles Times reported, Ms. Lewinsky "will testify that she came away from secret meetings with the president with no specific instructions to deny her sexual relationship with him but rather 'an implicit understanding' that she was to conceal it.")

The Wall Street Journal: "Ms. Lewinsky is expected to testify about matters related to a possible obstruction of justice involving the president. She also is expected to describe her conversations with Mr. Clinton late last year regarding how to respond to a subpoena she received to testify in the Paula Jones sexual-misconduct case against the president."

USA Today reported, "There was no indication that Lewinsky is prepared to say Clinton urged her to lie, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations said she couldtestify that the president used hypothetical explanations of how she could have been near him."

The Associated Press reported: "Lewinsky is prepared to testify that she and President Clinton discussed ways of concealing a sexual relationship."

Disney network

ABC News reported that Ms. Lewinsky told prosecutors "Clinton never instructed her directly to lie to conceal the affair, but that he did pose hypothetical examples about how she could describe their relationship if ever asked."

NBC News: "Lewinsky still insists the president never told her outright to lie about their relationship, but NBC News has learned that she now has told prosecutors key details about conversations that, combined with testimony from others, could be damaging to the president . . ."

CBS News: Ms. Lewinsky "told investigators that Mr. Clinton didn't tell her specifically to lie, but she says they did agree that she would deny their affair in her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit."

CNN reported, "She will not accuse the president . . . of urging her to lie under oath about that alleged sexual relationship."

So, to paraphrase the old Clairol ad, did she or didn't she? -- and, come grand jury time, will she or won't she?

David Shaw is the media critic for Los Angeles Times.

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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