Interviewers Work to Reinforce Negative
No Valentines for Tripp "The Betrayer"
the Valentineís Day weekend, Linda Tripp made a "series of media
appearances she has scheduled in an effort to rehabilitate her image,"
as The New York Times described it. But the media outlets she
selected were not about to allow her to rehabilitate the negative image
they worked so hard to create.
None of Trippís questioners
brought up the news stories that might complicate the picture: the White
Houseís look at her FBI file or the Pentagonís leak of her personnel
file to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, which is still under
investigation by Kenneth Starr.
The New York Times. On February 12, Times reporter
Don Van Natta Jr. began his summary of a two-hour interview: "Linda R.
Tripp, the woman whose secret tape recordings made her the reviled
symbol of a double-crossing friend, now says her deepest regret is the
pain she caused Monica S. Lewinsky...Mrs. Tripp said she betrayed Ms.
Lewinsky to save the young woman from being abused by the President of
the United States." But Tripp never described her behavior as betrayal,
saying instead, "I would hope some other mom would do for my daughter
what I did for Monica, despite the fact that it looks horrible, that it
looks like betrayal."
The Times kept
reinforcing Trippís negative image inside the paper, where the subhead
above her interview read in capital letters: "THE BETRAYER." Van Natta
reiterated his lead paragraph: "Americans view Mrs. Tripp as the villain
in the Clinton sex scandal and see her as an archetype of a girlfriend
betraying a girlfriend. They were incensed at Mrs. Trippís advice to Ms.
Lewinsky not to dry clean that stained navy blue dress from the Gap."
NBC. Katie Couric implied Monicagate wasnít Clintonís fault on
the February 12 Today: "This morning, Matt, front and center, the
woman who started it all. For the past year or so, four words have
described Linda Trippís relationship with Monica Lewinsky: perhaps those
four words are Ďwith friends like these.í Well, Linda Tripp knows full
well that her reputation proceeds her, that many people think of her as
the ultimate betrayer, so sheís, in an effort to rehabilitate her image,
is speaking out and sheís done so with our national correspondent Jamie
Gangel badgered Tripp, first
about her treatment of Lewinsky: "The one thing that no one can
understand is why you did this. How you could betray a friend?...Linda,
people just donít think itís right for girlfriends to tape
girlfriends....people donít think what you did was right. They think you
betrayed her....Why didnít you leave this to her mother to take care of?
Why was this your role?...How would you feel if someone did to your
daughter what you did to Monica?"
Then Gangel started knocking
Trippís motives: "Letís talk about motive. Most people think one of two
things about you. That you did this to write a book and make money....Or
you did it to bring down President Clinton, or both?" She noted Tripp
felt that Clintonís behavior with women "has to stop, or should at least
be exposed," and claimed: "That sounds like youíre trying to bring down
the President." Then she added: "Your pal in all this is Lucianne
Goldberg, who is a self-proclaimed Clinton-hater. You put on a wire for
Ken Starr, to try to get Monica to implicate the President. How can you
say you werenít out to get him?" After asking a series of questions
about how Tripp felt her life was in danger, Gangel came back around:
"You say you wanted this exposed. What did you think would happen once
it would be exposed, if it wasnít going to take down the President?"
The one piece of tape Gangel
played was Tripp urging Lewinsky to save the Gap dress: "It sounds like
youíre setting up Monica. You tell her to save the dress. You make
suggestions to send the President a suggestive audio tape. You tell her
to push the President to help her get a job. It sounds like youíre
manipulating Monica to implicate the President."
Finally, Gangel hit on Tripp's
unpopularity: "After you testified to the grand jury, you said...íI am
you.í And I think America resoundingly said, ĎNo, youíre not.í Your name
has become synonymous with betrayal. Youíve been vilified. Your poll
ratings last fall, your approval ratings were three percent. What has
been the worst part of this?"
Gangel concluded by blaming
Tripp, not Clinton, for the scandal: "When all is said and done,
Monicaís life has been ruined. President Clinton remains in office. The
country has gone through a year of scandal which many people blame you
for. Was it worth it?"
Gangel did allow Tripp to
suggest Lewinsky made suicide threats, and that she believed Lewinsky
was still lying to save the Presidentís skin. But at no point in over 45
questions did Gangel suggest Tripp has been improperly maligned or
should be credited as a whistle-blower who exposed improprieties and
abuses by the President. Although Tripp demanded the 20-minute interview
be aired unedited, Gangel chopped it up for a shorter, hostile
Dateline profile that night.
CNN. Tripp appeared for an hour on Larry King Live on
February 15, without the sort of fawning King has given to convicted
felon Susan McDougal, who refuses to testify about Clinton. Kingís
questions werenít all hostile, but some sounded like NBC: "Now were you
coming from the position here of an anti-Clinton zealot?"
King couldnít understand why
Tripp didnít just join the club of liars: "When they asked you to go
along ó this is the President, Monica is your friend ó why didnít you?"
Then he wondered: "Why not just say, as some said when they knew you
were coming here, they said if this were my friend, and I got a call, I
would tell her, donít speak to me any more because youíre going to be in
trouble. Just donít talk to me, and if I ask you about this, just say
you donít want to discuss it anymore....Thatís being loyal to a friend
and itís not illegal."
King also asked: "The thing
that got you in the most trouble for Linda Trippís popularity is
betraying a friend. How do you defend that?" Trippís terse retort:
"Friends donít ask friends to commit crime."
Some of King's questions were
less than savvy: "Was it Kenneth Starr that asked you to document
[Lewinsky]?" After Tripp explained she didnít give the tapes to Starr
until January, and that she began taping in October, King replied: "And
Mr. Starr approved?" After talking about how Tripp came to see the very
stained Gap dress in Lewinskyís Watergate apartment, King asked: "Are
you saying that no dress, there never would have been an admission by
the President of any relationship?" Tripp replied: "Youíre asking me
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