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CLINTON UNDER FIRE

Women Share Only the Rumor

Investigation: Some who are linked to Clinton shun the publicity, but others crave it. They range from bureaucrats to beauty queens.

January 23, 1998|MARC LACEY and EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — Some, such as former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, surface reluctantly as the exact nature of their relationship with President Clinton becomes a topic of debate. Others hold press conferences to proclaim to the world they have had an affair with him.

The women linked to Clinton--in some cases going back 30 years--form an awkward sorority of beauty queens, socialites and rank-and-file government bureaucrats.

One has a Web site on the Internet alluding to a relationship with Clinton. Others fiercely deny any affair. To the public, it remains unclear who is and who isn't telling the truth.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, there were so many "bimbo eruptions"--as Clinton campaign advisors called the disclosures--that a private detective was hired to head them off.

An ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Corbin Jones--who has accused then-Gov. Clinton of propositioning her in a Arkansas hotel room in 1991--has forced others to testify about their rumored liaisons with the president.

After culling news reports, sending investigators to Arkansas and fielding anonymous telephone calls, Jones' attorneys have developed a list of potential witnesses. By amassing their individual accounts, they seek to build a case that Clinton has a history of sexual indiscretions.

Some Reluctant to Face Lawyers

Plucked out of private life, some of the subpoenaed women would rather be anyplace else than the deposition room, with lawyers for Jones and Clinton firing questions back and forth.

Lewinsky, at the center of the storm surrounding Clinton this week, remains out of the public view as she prepares to respond to questions from Jones' lawyers.

In a sworn statement she previously provided to Jones' lawyers, she said she had no affair with Clinton. But secretly taped conversations with a colleague allegedly tell a different story.

Other witnesses, meanwhile, have been willing to talk to the highest bidder.

Gennifer Flowers faced Jones' lawyers last October in Dallas. But years before, in the midst of the 1992 presidential campaign, she publicly announced she had had a lengthy affair with Clinton.

She then parlayed her sudden fame into a Penthouse pictorial, a book and a fledgling nightclub act.

Clinton was asked about that relationship, and of allegations of others, when he faced Jones and her legal team Saturday.

His deposition is sealed, but White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry responded Thursday to reports that Clinton acknowledged an affair with Flowers.

Clinton had denied her accusation of a 12-year affair when asked about it in 1992 during an appearance on "60 Minutes," even as he conceded in the same interview to causing "pain in my marriage."

McCurry said that Clinton's answers in his deposition and his public statements six years ago "are not at odds." But he declined to elaborate, citing a gag order in the Jones case.

Another witness in Jones' case, which is due to reach a Little Rock, Ark., courtroom in May, is former Clinton high school classmate Dolly Kyle Browning, who was deposed in October.

In recent years, she penned a novel featuring a "President Coulter" and "First Lady Mallory" that she says is based on her three-decade relationship--occasionally sexual--with the guy she has always called Billy Clinton.

Investigators can also consult her Web site, which contains answers to frequently asked questions and her complete resume.

Like Lewinsky, who was an unknown government worker until the allegations of her affair broke this week, former White House staffer Kathleen E. Willey found herself this week stuck in the muck. Jones' attorneys are quite interested in reports that the president made sexual advances toward Willey in the White House.

But Willey is not particularly interested in building Jones' case.

"She never asked for public scrutiny of her private life, and she does not want to be drawn into Ms. Jones' legal battle with the president," said her lawyer, Daniel A. Gecker.

Former Miss America Denies Affair Rumor

Former Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen is one who has capitalized on her rumored affair with Clinton, even as she denied that it occurred. As the rumors swirled during Clinton's initial White House bid, she appeared nude in Playboy just in time for the New York primary.

"I did not have sex with Bill Clinton," she said unequivocally at a news conference touting the release of that issue of the magazine.

But she had been a bit more coy in the text that accompanied her photo spread, saying only: "I don't believe that's anyone's business."

Another woman believed to have been subpoenaed in the Jones case is a Little Rock resident who allegedly visited Clinton in the governor's mansion shortly before he left Arkansas for Washington for his first inauguration.

The woman, one of the few who has not been publicly named, had been escorted by state troopers into the mansion, past Secret Service agents who were there to guard the then-president-elect, sources told The Times in 1993.

The woman herself initially denied knowing Clinton, but she later called him a good man and used a line not unlike the one Clinton used this week when first quizzed about Lewinsky: "There was no improper relationship."

Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this story.

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