The Blog

In the Aftermath of the Kathleen Willey Story

from Michael Isikoff's Uncovering Clinton, pp. 161-163

12:00 AM, Apr 5, 1999
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Later that week, I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. A woman was on the line. You know that story you had in the magazine this week about the woman Clinton made sexual overtures to in the hideaway office? she asked.


"Yes," I said. "What about it?"


"That's exactly the same thing that happened to me," she said. She paused. "It was pretty awful."


We spoke for the next half hour. The caller was articulate and well-educated, a professional woman probably in her mid-to later-thirties, married and involved in politics. She wouldn't give me her name. She couldn't, she said. Her husband was a player in the Democratic Party. But she wanted me to know something. "There are a lot of us out there who are not bimbos," she said.


The story she told was chilling. She had met Clinton over the years at political events and would get invited to come see him at the White House when she was in Washington on business. Clinton's attention was "pretty flattering. . . . He's very charming." One day, about a year and a half before, she had gone by to see him and he had taken her into the hideaway office -- the same one described in my article. They chatted. Clinton started getting physical, trying to kiss her, touching her breasts. The woman said she was stunned. She had no idea how to respond. "I've never had a man take advantage of me like that," she said. "I haven't felt that way since high school."


As Clinton pressed himself on her, she said, she resisted -- and finally pushed him away. What happened after that? I asked. Clinton turned away, she said. She hesitated, and she said softly and with apparent discomfort. "I think he finished the job himself." The image lingered. The woman left the White House, humiliated and repulsed. Clinton acted as if nothing had happened. The woman told on one except her sister. Then Clinton started calling her at work. There would be a flurry of calls at strategic times -- usually when there were developments in the Jones case. He called many times in January, around the time of his inauguration -- just as the Jones case was being argued in the Supreme Court. The calls were embarrassing; she worried that her colleagues would start to wonder about them. There didn't seem to be any point to Clinton's calls. He just wanted to chart, to see how she was doing.


I pointed out that the timing was the key; he must have been worried about what she might say. Look, I told her, it's really important that we get together and talk about this. There are so many people who have been attacked by the White House, so many people who are worried about being slimed for daring to tell the truth about this guy. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to all the others.


No, she couldn't do that, she said. "If my husband knew I was talking to you, he'd kill me," she said. She mentioned an administration official she knew who had told her about Clinton slipping his hands up her leg. She too would never say anything. It was just so awful. I pleaded for her name. I begged her to meet me. She would think about it, she said. She would be in Washington soon to meet with a "client," and maybe she would consider giving me a call.


After she hung up, I was shaken. That woman sounded to me as credible as any of them, more so, really, and her story was in some ways the most horrifying of all. Who was this guy Clinton? What demons possessed him? And how many more of them were out there -- women too terrified and too smart to open their mouths? A few minutes later, I wandered back to [Newsweek Washington bureau chief Ann] McDaniel's office.


"In case you had any doubts about the Willey story," I told her, "let me tell you about the phone call I just got."


McDaniel listened. She shook her head sadly. "I didn't have any doubts," she said.


The woman never called back.