TV interview begins latest Monica-fest

Lewinsky: The other half of the White House sex scandal tells her story on ABC tonight and in a book being released tomorrow.

March 03, 1999|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Monica Lewinsky finally gets to tell the romance-novel version of her own story this week, calling her one-time presidential beau "a very sensual man" in a television interview tonight and offering still more naked truths in her book to be released tomorrow.

This is the first time Lewinsky speaks publicly on her own terms, instead of being secretly taped or ordered to testify. The ABC interview and book are more entertainment than news: With most of the details of her tale already known, Lewinsky now adds her own prime-time flourishes.

But even as the nation professes mass boredom with all things Lewinsky, her story remains a valuable commercial commodity.

So valuable that ABC News is investigating how an unauthorized one-hour audiotape of tonight's interview for the program "20/20" -- which was conducted with extra security on a closed set -- found its way to the New York Daily News.

That newspaper scooped the show by printing excerpts of the interview yesterday.

The Lewinsky-fest begins with the interview and continues when her book, "Monica's Story," written with Princess Diana biographer Andrew Morton, hits bookstores.

The independent counsel's office has restricted what is said publicly by Lewinsky, with whom it has a criminal immunity agreement.

The Lewinsky musings begin on ABC, where she appears in a black pantsuit and a slicked-back hairstyle that might be described as Definitely Not Big.

The 25-year-old Beverly Hills native is by turns world-weary and girlish. She chats about the famous thong flash and then delves into her ensuing relationship with Clinton, alternately beaming and choking up.

In a heavily promoted sweeps-week interview, Lewinsky apologizes to Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Chelsea Clinton and to the nation.

"I waited a long time to be able to express to the country how very sorry I am for my part in this past year's ordeal," Lewinsky tells Barbara Walters in excerpts released by ABC News.

"I wouldn't dream of asking Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton to forgive me. But I would ask them to know that I am very sorry for what happened and for what they've been through."

Lewinsky, a psychology major in college, offers an analysis of the inner Clinton.

"I think he's a very sensual man who has a lot of sensual feelings," she says. "And I think he also has a very strong religious upbringing. I think he struggles with his sensuality because I don't think he thinks it's OK."

While seeming pained at times, she does rally for a zinger at Linda Tripp.

"I pity her," Lewinsky says of her one-time friend and betrayer, who recently told CNN's Larry King that she would like to give Lewinsky a hug. "I would hate to be her."

Portions of the interview printed yesterday in the Daily News contain some of Lewinsky's private asides -- "Can I take that over?" she reportedly asks Walters after muffing a reply.

The unedited portions of the interview reveal details about a news event whose secrecy is a key to its advertising value.

ABC sought $800,000 for commercial spots on the show, nearly what an advertiser would spend during a Super Bowl broadcast.

ABC News confirmed that the tape was authentic and that it was investigating how the leak, which it called "illegal and irresponsible," had occurred.

"There was very limited access and not a huge number of people here," said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman.

The interview, Murphy said, was not even taped on studio cameras, for fear that the feed could be intercepted.

In its article, the Daily News reported that Lewinsky discusses her weight problems, her long-ago affair with a married high school teacher and other juicy matters.

At one point, Lewinsky reportedly refuses to discuss a "revelation" in the book about an event in her relationship with a single man at the Pentagon, saying she did not want her father to know.

Walters reportedly urges Lewinsky to inform her father, adding in a whisper: "You better do that. This book's going to come out."

Other quotes from the tape obtained by the Daily News: "He's a good kisser," Lewinsky says of her White House boyfriend.

The thong flashing, she says, was a "small, subtle, flirtatious gesture."

As for affairs with married men, Lewinsky vows: "I hope I never will have -- I know -- I never will have an affair with a married man again.

"I have to pray about that."

After watching the interview, Lewinsky reportedly will embark on a European trip this weekend and will sign books in Harrods in London.

For her book and European media appearances, Lewinsky is to receive a reported $3 million. ABC has said it did not pay her for its interview.

Many scandal junkies already have ordered their Lewinsky books. At Amazon.com, the online bookseller, the title rose yesterday from the 10th-most-popular item to the fifth by the end of the workday. (The Starr report and some other Lewinsky-related titles have spiked just as quickly to the top of Amazon's list, which ranks book sales over a 24-hour period.)

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