Photo of the Day

Clinton and Lewinsky on a 1998 Abkhazia stamp.

The Story Behind the Dress

In November 1997, Monica Lewinsky told her confidant and supposed friend, Linda Tripp that she had in her possession a blue Gap dress that still bore the semen stain that resulted from her administering oral sex to President Clinton in February of that year.

Tripp called her literary agent, and fellow Clinton-hater, Lucianne Goldberg to report the news that evidence existed in Lewinsky’s closet that could prove a sexual relationship between Monica and the President. Goldberg and Tripp, according to published reports in both Time and Newsweek, discussed stealing the dress and turning it over to investigators. Goldberg admitted having such a discussion with Tripp, calling it a “Nancy Drew fantasy.”

In late November, Lewinsky mentioned to Tripp that she intended to have the dress, which she had been saving as a souvenir, dry-cleaned for a family event. Tripp, anxious to preserve the dress to nail the President, discouraged her from doing so. “I would tell my own daughter,” Tripp told her, that she should save the dress “for your own ultimate protection” should she later be accused of lying about the affair with Clinton. When Lewinsky expressed skepticism that it would ever come to that, Tripp told her that the dress made her look “really fat” and she shouldn’t wear it again in public.

In late July, 1998, Lewinsky turned the dress over to Kenneth Starr’s investigators after signing an immunity agreement. A blood sample was taken from Clinton on August 3, and on August 17, the FBI reported its conclusion that Clinton was the source of the semen on the dress “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.”

When news of the existence of the dress surfaced in published reports in early August, politicians and commentators alike agreed that the blue dress proved Clinton lied when he denied a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called the evidence “very critical.” Senator Arlen Spector (R-Pa) agreed that it would be “the most powerful kind of corroboration” of an affair. A George Washington law professor, Jonathan Turley, appearing on “Meet the Press” said of the semen stain: “No one will be able to spin him out of that.”

Lewinsky, who has kept out of the public eye for a decade, photographed at her Los Angeles apartment. Photo Vanity Fair.

The Blue dress  is the item of clothing Monica Lewinsky is most closely associated with.  In 2015, Monica Lewinsky was reportedly offered a whopping $1million for her ‘DNA-stained’ blue dress, which she wore during her liaisons with then-President Bill Clinton in the nineties. She was offered the enormous sum of money by the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, which had previously tried to pay her a smaller $250,000 for the infamous GAP dress. The museum, situated in Industrial Road, Las Vegas, apparently wishes to include the item in an exhibition ‘examining the private relationships of people in power, gender dynamics [and] politics’.

In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, the ex-White House intern spoke of her desire to move beyond her affair with Clinton, saying: ‘It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress.’

She added: ‘I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton.’

The Las Vegas Erotic Heritage Museum’s executive director, Victoria Hartmann, offered Lewinsky the increased sum of $1million for the dress via letter, according to the New York Daily News. In the document, Hartmann wrote that the exhibit also comprises ‘items of an intimate nature’ belonging to Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have had an affair with Clinton.

It ‘will serve to bring awareness to the complexities of sexual relationships and how they are perceived by Americans, especially when it involves those we put our trust in as leaders,’ she said.

Lewinsky, was 22 years old when she first began her affair with Clinton, who was married to Hillary Clinton and residing at the White House. Their illicit rendezvous hit the headlines in 1998. Lewinsky claimed to have had sexual relations with Clinton nine times between 1995 and 1997 – something that Clinton initially swore to be false. Lewinsky said her relationship with the 49-year-old president had involved oral sex but not sexual intercourse – and famously kept her blue dress, which she said was stained with Clinton’s DNA.

In late July, 1998, Lewinsky turned the uncleaned dress over to Kenneth Starr’s investigators after signing an immunity agreement. On August 3, a blood sample was taken from Clinton.

Fourteen days later, the FBI reported that Clinton was the source of the semen on the dress ‘to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.’ Clinton later admitted in taped grand jury testimony that he had had an ‘improper physical relationship’ with Lewinsky, before confessing to the affair on TV.

Clinton was subsequently impeached by the House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Senate in December 1998. Both he and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary have since moved on.

However, in the aftermath of the scandal, Lewinsky struggled to find a job in communications due to her famous name. ‘I was never “quite right” for the position,’ she wrote in the Vanity Fair article.

She also revealed that her decade-long silence over the affair had come at a cost – as she had turned down offers amounting to $10million because she ‘didn’t feel like the right thing to do’.

And she claimed she was made a ‘scapegoat in order to protect [Clinton’s] powerful position’. Gennifer Flowers, an actress and model, born in Oklahoma, shot to fame after revealing she had engaged in sexual relations with Clinton – something he admitted to under oath in January 1998. However, the former president declared they had such relations on only one encounter.

Lewinsky’s blue dress.

On January 17, 1994, William Jefferson Clinton made history. He became the first sitting president in U.S. history to testify as a defendant in a civil suit brought against him. Specifically, President Clinton swore to tell the truth and provided a four-hour deposition in which he categorically denied any and all sexual-harassment claims made by former Arkansas state clerical worker, Paula Corbin Jones. Jones alleged in her lawsuit that on May 8, 1991, Clinton, who was then governor of Arkansas, asked her up to a hotel room in Little Rock. Once there, he exposed his genitals to her and asked for oral sex.

Jones said she refused and left the hotel. Thereafter, she stated, her job transformed into a “hostile work environment.”

Submitting her paperwork in 1994, just three days before the statute of limitations expired; Jones sought $750,000 in damages. Initially, a judge granted the president’s legal team a summary judgment and overturned the case, ruling that Jones could not sufficiently prove she had suffered any damages or experienced any emotional distress. Upon challenging the ruling in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, however, Jones persuaded a majority of judges to allow the case to proceed.

The Clinton legal team then fought to postpone any related legal proceedings until after Clinton had left office. They argued that President of the United States was a unique job, and that their client simply couldn’t just take time off to deal with a personal lawsuit. Lawyers volleyed the case back and forth for the next several years, eventually reaching the Supreme Court. On May 27, 1997, the highest court in the country ruled unanimously against the sitting president.

Bill Clinton settled out of court with Jones on November 13, 1998. He paid her $850,000, without admitting guilt or offering an apology, in exchange for her dropping the case. Jones took the deal.

Even before his successful 1992 run for president, Bill Clinton’s reputation as a womanizer and a philanderer preceded him. Clinton’s supposed extra-marital proclivities provided endless material for comedians and cartoonists to send up, but also raised seemingly serious-minded questions of “character” among the president’s critics.

While on the campaign trail, Clinton even appeared alongside his wife, Hillary Clinton, on 60 Minutes to deny claims of infidelity made by “actress and model” Gennifer Flowers.

The scandal peaked when Flowers held a press conference and played private tapes of conversations she’d had with the candidate. Shortly thereafter, she posed nude for a spread in Penthouse magazine. Paula Jones also appeared naked in Penthouse — eventually. First, though, in December 1994, a court ordered Penthouse owner Bob Guccione not to print or in any other way distribute semi-nude photos of Jones that he’d purchased from her ex-boyfriend. Fourteen years later, however, Jones bared all for a layout in the December 2000 issue titled “The Perils of Paula Jones.” As for Clinton, he would have to continue testifying under oath in regard to sexual misadventures. While being grilled in 1998 over an alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Clinton famously responded to a question by stating, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” In 1999, Bill Clinton became the second U.S. president to face an impeachment trial (Andrew Johnson, in 1868, was the first). He beat the rap.

Jones last made headlines in October 2016, when she appeared at a St. Louis press conference alongside Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who was running against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Paula Corbin Jones, born Paula Rosalee Corbin; September 17, 1966.

In 1999, for only the second time in United States history, the Senate conducted an impeachment trial of a President. The acquittal of William Jefferson Clinton on February 12 came as no great surprise, given the near party-line vote on impeachment charges in the House of Representatives leading to the trial.

Despite its predictable outcome, the impeachment trial of President Clinton is well worth studying, both for what it says about the failure of the judiciary and political institutions to respond adequately to an unprecedented situation, and what it tells us about the failures of Bill Clinton, the all-too-human occupant of the nation’s highest office. The trial also raises fascinating questions about the distinction between public morality and private morality.

The impeachment saga of President Clinton has its origins in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought in Arkansas in May, 1994 by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee. In her suit, Jones alleged that on May 8, 1991, while she helped to staff a state-sponsored management conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, a state trooper and member of Governor Clinton’s security detail, Danny Ferguson, approached her and told her that the Governor would like to meet her in his hotel suite. Minutes later, Jones, seeing this as an opportunity to advance her career, took the elevator to Clinton’s suite. There, according to her disputed account, Clinton made a series of increasingly aggressive moves, culminating in his dropping his pants exposing an erection–and then asking Jones to “kiss it.” Jones claimed that she stood and told the Governor, “I’m not that kind of girl.” As she left, Clinton stopped her by the door and said, “You’re a smart girl, let’s keep this between ourselves.”

“New York Daily News” front cover, dated January 18, 1998.

Illicit rendezvous.

Monica Lewinsky came to Washington in July 1995 to work as a White House intern at age 21, newly graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland. In her first few months on the job, the aggressive and sexually experienced Lewinsky met and flirted with the President, but no opportunities for close personal contact arose. In November 1995, however, Lewinsky was assigned to the West Wing and she soon found herself alone with Clinton. He asked if he could kiss Lewinsky. She quickly consented. Later that evening, the two would have the first of what eventually would be ten sexual encounters over a sixteen-month period. After eight of the encounters had taken place, in April 1996, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff–most likely aware of the threat the young intern posed–reassigned Lewinsky to the a position in the Department of Defense. The following month Clinton told a disappointed Lewinsky (“He was my sunshine,” she later told a grand jury) he was ending the relationship, but he revived it briefly in early 1997.
The encounters followed a predictable pattern. Generally they occurred on weekend mornings in and around the Oval Office (including a study, a hallway, and a bathroom), when few people except Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie , would be around the West Wing. Although many private meetings between the two involved no sexual activity, when they did they generally included Lewinsky fellating the President and the President fondling her breasts and genitalia. On three occasions, Lewinsky performed oral sex while the President talked on the phone. Lewinsky told Clinton she would like to have vaginal intercourse with him, but he resisted. He also terminated the oral sex sessions before ejaculation until their last two encounters.

Affair: The museum apparently wishes to include the item in an exhibition ‘examining the private relationships of people in power, gender dynamics [and] politics’. Above, Lewinsky and Clinton are seen in October 1996.

When Clinton again told Lewinsky in May 1997 that their sexual relationship was over, she redoubled efforts that began the previous year to enlist the President’s assistance in finding employment. Lewinsky received a job offer from U. N. Ambassador Bill Richardson several months later, but she turned it down, preferring to find private sector employment. Clinton golfing buddy and power broker Vernon Jordan , acting at what he presumed to be the President’s request through Betty Currie, met with Lewinsky to discuss employment possibilities in November 1997.
Less than two weeks after Lewinsky’s name appeared on the Jones deposition list, Clinton told her the news. He advised her that filing an affidavit might avoid the necessity of a deposition (but only, he need hardly have said, if she denied a sexual relationship), and he reminded her of their “cover story” for her frequent trips to Oval Office–that she was just delivering documents. Two days after discussing the matter with Clinton, Lewinsky received a subpoena to appear for a deposition in January 1998. She called Vernon Jordan, who again met with her and referred her to an attorney, who proceeded to draft an affidavit that reflected her denial of any sexual involvement with the President.

Just after Christmas, Lewinsky spoke again with Clinton, raising her concern that the subpoena had requested that she bring to the deposition any gifts–and there were many–that she had received from him. Although Clinton apparently informed Lewinsky that she was obligated to give the lawyers for Jones any gifts in her possession, a call came later that day from Currie, indicating that she understood Lewinsky had some items she’d like to give her for safekeeping. (Currie, in her testimony, disagreed with Lewinsky’s version of events and claimed that the call about the presents came from Lewinsky, not her.) Currie drove to Lewinsky’s home and carted away a box of Clinton gifts and put them under her bed.

In early January 1998, Lewinsky signed an affidavit, with the intent of filing it for the Jones case, claiming her relationship with the President was non-sexual. The day after Lewinsky showed the affidavit to Vernon Jordan, Jordan made a call to Ronald Perelman, a friend and member of the Board of Directors of Revlon, encouraging him to hire Lewinsky. The job offer from Revlon came just two days later.

Sex museum: The Las Vegas Erotic Heritage Museum’s executive director, Victoria Hartmann, offered Lewinsky the increased sum of $1million for the dress via letter. Above, the museum in Industrial Road.

The source of the information that put Monica Lewinsky’s name on the deposition list for the Jones case was Linda Tripp. Tripp had served in the Bush White House, and was held over in her job when Clinton became president in 1993. Tripp came to despise Clinton. In 1996, when she considered how to expose what she considered to be West Wing scandals, she contacted a conservative literary agent and self-described Clinton-hater, Lucianne Goldberg. Goldberg urged Tripp to write an exposé, but at that time Tripp’s concern with keeping her job caused her to reject the suggestion.

Tripp’s name came to public attention in August 1997 when it appeared in a Newsweek article in which she recalled running into a White House volunteer, Kathleen Willey, shortly after Willey had been kissed and fondled by Clinton in his private office. (Willey, according to Tripp, was “happy and joyful” and the incident was “not a case of sexual harassment.”) Paula Jones’s lawyers, of course, took note of Tripp’s account–and undoubtedly determined at that time to add Tripp to their list of potential witnesses.

Months before the Willey story broke, however, Tripp learned from her then-friend, Monica Lewinsky, that she was having an affair with the President. Tripp told the reporter for Newsweek, Michael Isikoff, when he approached her to ask about Willey’s encounter with Clinton that the better story involved a White House intern, who she left unnamed. Tripp, partly for her own self-defense and partly out of a desire to damage the President’s reputation, began secretly taping (in violation of the state law of her home state of Maryland) her own conversations with Lewinsky with a $100 recorder she picked up from a nearby Radio Shack.

During one of her taped conversations with Lewinsky in November 1997, Tripp learned that her friend had in her closet a blue dress that still bore the semen stain from a sexual encounter with the President some nine months earlier. Tripp excitedly called Michael Isikoff with the remarkable news, and urged that the reporter have the dress DNA tested. Isikoff pointed out an obvious problem: even if Newsweek could somehow obtain the dress, the test would be meaningless without a sample of Clinton’s DNA–and how could the magazine get that? Tripp, however, continued to take an active interest in preserving the semen evidence, urging Lewinsky not to have the dress dry cleaned–as she had planned–for a family occasion because it might be useful for her own “protection” and, besides, the dress made her look “really fat.”

Lewinsky is pictured in court in August 1998.

In early January 1998, at the encouragement of Luciane Goldberg and backers of the Jones lawsuit (who, by this time, had been filled in by Tripp on details of the Lewinsky matter), Tripp contacted Kenneth Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel. Tripp told Starr’s staff all she knew about the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal and presented them with a collection of damaging tapes of her private conversations with Lewinsky.
By late 1997, despite the several-year-long “Whitewater” investigation costing tens of millions of dollars, the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) failed to produce the necessary “substantial and credible” evidence of an impeachable offense that would justify referring the matter to Congress for further action. It seemed only a matter of weeks before the OIC would be forced to close its far-reaching effort to identify wrongdoing by the President. The removal of Independent Counsel Robert Fiske, a moderate Republican, and his replacement–by a three-judge panel headed by David Sentelle (a Reagan appointee and protege of Senator Jesse Helms)–with conservative Kenneth Starr was a key turning point in the investigation. Starr had no hesitation about aggressively taking the investigation in a new direction.
About the same time, Judge Wright appeared ready to dismiss Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit. The judge seemed angered and frustrated by leaks (most likely the leaks originated with the Clinton team, not the Jones team) of salacious details in the press, in obvious defiance of her gag order. The President’s camp had every reason to be confident that the case would never go to trial–if they could prevent any new bombshells about Clinton’s sexual activities with subordinates.

Linda Tripp.

In January 1998, it all blew up. According to the Starr Report eventually submitted to Congress, that month the OIC “received information that Monica Lewinsky was attempting to influence the testimony of one of the witnesses in the Jones investigation [Tripp], and that Ms. Lewinsky herself was prepared to provide false information under oath in that lawsuit.” The Report added that “Ms. Lewinsky had spoken to the President…about being subpoenaed to testify in the Jones suit.” Based on these representations, and a “sting tape” of a conversation between Tripp and Lewinsky, the OIC sought and obtained permission from Attorney General Reno to expand his investigation to encompass the Lewinsky affair. (In seeking permission from Reno, the OIC neglected to mention its prior contacts with lawyers for Paula Jones, including Starr’s own previous discussions with Jones’s lawyers on the immunity issue that reached the Supreme Court. Had the OIC disclosed these contacts, a conflict concern might have either resulted in their request being turned down, or a new independent counsel appointed.)

On January 16, the day before the President would be deposed in the Jones case, authorization for the expanded investigation came from Janet Reno. That afternoon, acting in concert with Linda Tripp, who had invited Lewinsky to the food court of the Pentagon City Mall for lunch, FBI agents acting for the OIC seized Lewinsky and escorted her to room 1012 in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. There OIC lawyers would–for the next eleven hours–press her to cooperate in their investigation by agreeing to wear a wire and secretly record her conversations with President Clinton. Despite warning her that she could face up to 27 years in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice (in fact, two years would be a far more likely punishment), Lewinsky refused. Her decision might well have saved the Clinton presidency.

The next day, lawyers for Paula Jones, having been fully briefed on the details of the Lewinsky affair, threw a series of questions at the President during his deposition that left him surprised and, at times, flustered. Clinton, however, generally stuck to his script and continued to deny the existence of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. In fact, the President went so far as to deny ever even being “alone” with Lewinsky.

Back in his Oval Office on the following day, Clinton discussed the Lewinsky affair with Betty Currie in a manner that strongly suggested an attempt to influence her future statements about her boss’s relationship with the young intern. He told his personal secretary, “We were never really alone,” “You could see and hear everything,” and “Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?” Clinton would later spin the discussion as an attempt to refresh his recollection about his relationship with Lewinsky–a wildly implausible explanation, given that some of the questions he asked Currie she was in no position to answer.
The denials from the White House continued into summer, when the President became aware that his semen stain remained on the blue dress that Monica Lewinsky wore into the Oval Office on a February day in 1997, and that Lewinsky had signed an immunity agreement with the Office of Independent Counsel. In the meantime, Starr’s office had interviewed Secret Service agents, friends of Lewinsky, examined hundreds of emails and White House telephone records, and listened to dozens of hours of taped conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky.

Monica Lewinsky has reportedly been offered a whopping $1million for her ‘DNA-stained’ blue dress, which she wore during her liaisons with then-President Bill Clinton in the nineties. Above, Lewinsky is pictured smiling next to Clinton at the White House while wearing the dress.

News of the scandal first broke on January 17, 1998, on the Drudge Report, which reported that Newsweek editors were sitting on a story by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff exposing the affair. The story broke in the mainstream press on January 21 in The Washington Post. The story swirled for several days and, despite swift denials from Clinton, the clamor for answers from the White House grew louder. On January 26, President Clinton, standing with his wife, spoke at a White House press conference, and issued a forceful denial in which he said:

Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.

Pundits debated whether Clinton would address the allegations in his State of the Union Address. Ultimately, he chose not to mention them. Hillary Clinton remained supportive of her husband throughout the scandal. On January 27, in an appearance on NBC’s Today she said, “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

That woman: Monica Lewinsky hugs Bill Clinton in a picture which became one of the best-known images of the White House sex scandal. Their affair was uncovered by Ken Starr as he investigated the Paula Jones case.

For the next several months and through the summer, the media debated whether an affair had occurred and whether Clinton had lied or obstructed justice, but nothing could be definitively established beyond the taped recordings because Lewinsky was unwilling to discuss the affair or testify about it. On July 28, 1998, a substantial delay after the public break of the scandal, Lewinsky received transactional immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony concerning her relationship with Clinton. She also turned over a semen-stained blue dress (that Linda Tripp had encouraged her to save without dry cleaning) to the Starr investigators, thereby providing unambiguous DNA evidence that could prove the relationship despite Clinton’s official denials.

Clinton admitted in taped grand jury testimony on August 17, 1998, that he had engaged in an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky. That evening he gave a nationally televised statement admitting that his relationship with Lewinsky was “not appropriate”
In his deposition for the Jones lawsuit, Clinton denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky. Based on the evidence—a blue dress with Clinton’s semen that Tripp provided—Starr concluded that the president’s sworn testimony was false and perjurious.

During the deposition, Clinton was asked “Have you ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, as that term is defined in Deposition Exhibit 1?” The judge ordered that Clinton be given an opportunity to review the agreed definition. Afterwards, based on the definition created by the Independent Counsel’s Office, Clinton answered, “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.” Clinton later stated, “I thought the definition included any activity by [me], where [I] was the actor and came in contact with those parts of the bodies” which had been explicitly listed (and “with an intent to gratify or arouse the sexual desire of any person”). In other words, Clinton denied that he had ever contacted Lewinsky’s “genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks”, and effectively claimed that the agreed-upon definition of “sexual relations” included giving oral sex but excluded receiving oral sex.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Lewinsky struggled to find a job in communications due to her famous name.

Two months after the Senate failed to convict him, President Clinton was held in civil contempt of court by Judge Susan Webber Wright for giving misleading testimony regarding his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, and was also fined $90,000 by Wright. Clinton declined to appeal the civil contempt of court ruling, citing financial problems, but still maintained that his testimony complied with Wright’s earlier definition of sexual relations. In 2001, his license to practice law was suspended in Arkansas for five years and later by the United States Supreme Court.

In December 1998, Clinton’s Democratic political party was in the minority in both chambers of Congress. A few Democratic members of Congress, and most in the opposition Republican Party, claimed that Clinton’s giving false testimony and allegedly influencing Lewinsky’s testimony were crimes of obstruction of justice and perjury and thus impeachable offenses. The House of Representatives voted to issue Articles of Impeachment against him which was followed by a 21-day trial in the Senate.

All of the Democrats in the Senate voted for acquittal on both the perjury and the obstruction of justice charges. Ten Republicans voted for acquittal for perjury: John Chafee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), Slade Gorton (Washington), Jim Jeffords (Vermont), Richard Shelby (Alabama), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), Ted Stevens (Alaska), Fred Thompson (Tennessee), and John Warner (Virginia). Five Republicans voted for acquittal for obstruction of justice: Chafee, Collins, Jeffords, Snowe, and Specter.

President Clinton was thereby acquitted of all charges and remained in office. There were attempts to censure the president by the House of Representatives, but those attempts failed.


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