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CLINTON UNDER FIRE

Washington Internship Yields Myriad Lessons

Inquiry: Woman in probe went from Beverly Hills upbringing to 'top secret' clearance. Now she's been 'sullied both ways,' lawyer says.

January 22, 1998|JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The dark-haired young woman at the center of the latest furor engulfing President Clinton grew up in a red-tiled home in Beverly Hills, studied psychology in college and enjoyed a "top secret" security clearance when she abruptly ended her two-year career as a government employee a few weeks ago.

On Wednesday, 24-year-old Monica S. Lewinsky--a former White House intern-- found herself at the center of the latest sexual and legal scandal to rock the Clinton White House, her voice unheard but her photograph repeatedly splashed across television and computer screens.

Although her lawyer, William Ginsburg of Los Angeles, would not say whether Lewinsky carried on an affair with Clinton, he insisted that she is a victim.

"She's ravaged one way and she's ravaged another way," he said in one interview. "She's sullied both ways no matter how this comes out."

The still-cloudy picture of Lewinsky that began emerging Wednesday was that of a young, eager-to-please employee still learning the ways of the working world.

"For the amount of money she got, she was pretty special--a bright, articulate and intelligent young lady," one Defense Department official said Wednesday of Lewinsky's role, which ended in December, as a $33,000-a-year public affairs aide at the Pentagon. "She gave her full heart to this job."

While working at the White House, however, Lewinsky was viewed as a "star-struck" intern who sometimes acted inappropriately. She gave the president gifts and brought coffee to White House staffers who had not asked for any, Reuters reported.

And CNN reported Wednesday that Lewinsky told an unnamed acquaintance recently that she was having an affair with "an older married man" and that it was "complicated."

After Lewinsky left the White House for a Pentagon position, Clinton administration officials reportedly sought other jobs for her.

The Associated Press reported that U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson interviewed Lewinsky at his office in the Watergate, where she also has an apartment, and offered her a junior job in public affairs at the U.S. Mission at the United Nations in New York.

"The decision to hire Ms. Lewinsky was based on her qualifications, initiative and reputation as a hard worker," Richardson spokesman Calvin Mitchell said. "There was no pressure by any individual to hire her."

White House Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta, acting on a request from Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary, asked Richardson to consider hiring Lewinsky, the AP reported.

And the cosmetics company Revlon disclosed Wednesday that close Clinton associate Vernon E. Jordan, who is a member of the company's board, referred Lewinsky for a public affairs job at a Revlon affiliate in New York. She was interviewed over the last two months and offered a job.

"In light of today's events, the company is informing Ms. Lewinsky that it will take no further action at this time on her employment application," the company said.

Lewinsky, whose father is an oncologist, attended Beverly Hills High School and graduated from the smaller Bel Air Prep School, now called Pacific Hills, where she joined the chorus. "She had a real nice singing voice," recalled headmaster Rich Makoff.

Lewinsky "was a real nice girl and had a nice group of friends up here," he said.

After graduating high school in 1991, she attended Lewis and Clark college in Portland, Ore., a 3,400-student private college. Lewinsky made the dean's list for one semester and graduated with a major in psychology in 1995.

Lewinsky joined the White House as an unpaid intern in Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta's office in the summer of 1995. She later was hired in the legislative affairs office before taking a Defense Department job as a confidential aide to the assistant secretary for public affairs, Ken Bacon.

By one measure, she showed an enthusiasm for Washington: In May of 1996, she donated $250 to the Democratic Party. Later that year, her mother, Marcia Lewis, contributed $1,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

Times staff writers Matea Gold and John M. Glionna in Los Angeles, Kim Murphy in Seattle, Paul Richter and Richard A. Serrano in Washington and Craig Turner in New York contributed to this story.

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