Tripp receives a hero's welcome for speech to conservative group

S.C. audience hears vow to subpoena her enemies

June 04, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

CHARLESTON, S.C. - In an hourlong speech that seemed more like a conversation with friends, Linda R. Tripp denounced the news media and White House for what she called unfair attacks on everything from her appearance to her supposed greed.

Speaking to about 75 supporters during a conference sponsored by a conservative Internet site, Tripp said that the last two years have taken a personal toll. At one point, she said, she even developed a twitch.

In the speech, carried over the Internet, Tripp also said her legal team would be "be subpoenaing every national name you can imagine in the White House" for her lawsuit alleging that Pentagon and administration officials violated her privacy.

Tripp also said she wanted to protect other whistle-blowers and only tape-recorded Lewinsky to protect herself. "Telling the truth without proof would have been suicidal," she said.

Tripp addressed the group last night at a conference organized by members of the conservative South Carolina chapter of, a Web site that operates a discussion forum and advocates such positions as abolishing the income tax and doing away with popular election of U.S. senators.

Tripp essentially closed the speech to the news media by requiring reporters to pay a $50 registration fee to Free Republic. She would not allow tape recorders into the event last night, but it was carried live, and tape recorded, over the Internet.

With several standing ovations, the audience welcomed the Columbia resident, whose illicit wire-tapping exposed a sex scandal in the White House and led to the impeachment of President Clinton.

About 8:30 p.m., Tripp, wearing a black dress and black hat, walked into the gathering to the song, "Wind beneath my wings." The crowd stood and cheered, "Linda, Linda, Linda!"

When she addressed the issues surrounding her illicit taping of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Tripp used the word, "documentation," she said, to keep herself from making incriminating statements that might lead to another prosecution.

Maryland prosecutors dropped wire-tapping charges against Tripp last month after a judicial ruling essentially destroyed their case.

Attacking the White House "spin" and news media criticism, she also tried to dispel the notion that she taped Lewinsky to write a book and make a profit, saying she was the only major player in the case who hasn't written a book yet.

She also took a jab at Lewinsky, calling her the "Kato Kaelin of the Clinton saga," and denounced her book, "if you can call it that."

Tripp also took umbrage with news media reports that criticized her appearance.

"If I was 100 pounds wet and was, I don't know, eight inches shorter at least, they wouldn't have been able to do what they did," said Tripp, who called herself "a middle-aged woman from Maryland."

"Who cares what I wear?" she said. "I wear what fits."

Her appearance drew many people who ordinarily wouldn't have traveled to Charleston for a conference that dealt mostly with expounding the Free Republic's values.

Susie Graham, 48, of Texas decided to fly here Thursday because she wanted to thank Tripp for exposing Clinton's misdeeds.

Graham said she went to a local restaurant and was suddenly embraced by Tripp, who told Graham that she had read her many posts on

"She grabbed me hard and hugged me," said Graham, whose screen name is Yellow Rose of Texas. "She said she reads my posts. I was the celebrity, not her."

It would be hard for Tripp to find a more receptive audience in the United States. On a table outside the main conference room, organizers were selling computer mouse pads, T-shirts and coffee mugs, all with anti-Clinton stances. One mouse pad shows a presidential seal with an unfastened zipper.

Another shows Clinton wearing inmate stripes, behind iron bars. Yet another resembles a stamp -worth 0 cents -that portrays Hillary Clinton wearing a royal crown (decorated with the former Soviet Union's sickle and hammer) with the text: QHI (Queen Hillary I).

Free Republic boasts more than 25,000 registered users, who post articles and comments. Many members have not met but seem to know each other well, laughing at inside jokes that refer to their Web site.On name tags, many list their screen names -Exit 148, Requiem for Truth -and their real ones.

To Freepers, as they call themselves, Clinton violated America's trust and Tripp exposed his corruption. She refused to lie, they say, and is a hero.

Some traveled from as far as California to meet the Columbia resident, to shake her hand, to say thanks, to agree with her famous "I'm you" speech on courthouse steps in July 1998. Yes, they said, "we are you."

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