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Clinton Cites Innocent Affection in Testimony

Deposition: President describes encounter with Willey in wholesome terms. He says he has no memory of an encounter with Paula Jones.

March 14, 1998|JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Bill Clinton described by his own testimony in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual-harassment suit is a man who demonstrates affection in the most innocent of ways and recalls little of his role in finding jobs for some of the women who testified that he had made sexual advances.

He said he has used the phrase "come-hither look" to describe women with a sexually "suggestive" appearance. But he said he had no recollection of Jones before 1994, when she went public with claims that he crudely propositioned her in a Little Rock, Ark., hotel room.

He acknowledged physical contact with Kathleen E. Willey, a former White House employee. But he described it in wholesome terms that contrast starkly with her testimony that he placed her hands on his genitals.

He recalled giving former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky a gift from Martha's Vineyard, where he vacationed last August. But he added: "I give people a lot of gifts, and when people are around I give a lot of things I have at the White House away, so I could have given her a gift, but I don't remember."

He admitted that, as Arkansas governor, he went to the home of a woman identified as Jane Doe 2 "several times" when her husband was not home. But he said of these visits with the woman, whom he appointed as a state appeals judge: "The fact that her husband was not there was incidental. She was a friend of mine, and I would go by and see her from time to time."

The president made these observations as he was grilled by lawyers for Jones on Jan. 17, three days before a storm of controversy broke over Clinton when allegations became public that he had had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and had urged her to deny it even when questioned under oath.

Clinton's deposition, which was made public Friday along with hundreds of pages of other documents from the Jones case, provides his first detailed response to some of the allegations of sexual indiscretions that he is said to have committed both as governor and as president.

It is, in many ways, an extraordinary document. There, in cold black and white, is the president of the United States being asked such questions as: "Did you ever ask Paula Jones to kiss your penis?" "Did Kathleen Willey ever give you permission to take her hand and place it on your genitals?" "Did you have an extramarital sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky?"

Clinton's answer to these and a host of other questions was "No."

The most explosive material in the session may be the questioning of Willey because her account of her encounter with Clinton, unlike those of Jones, Lewinsky and others, is new. Willey's description elsewhere in the court documents of what she called an unwelcome sexual advance by Clinton was described very differently by the president.

"I did to her what I have done to scores and scores of men and women who have worked for me or been my friends over the years," Clinton said. "I embraced her, I put my arms around her, I may even have kissed her on the forehead. There was nothing sexual about it."

And while Jones says her life was changed by a traumatic meeting with Clinton in a hotel room, the president claimed that he did not even remember the encounter.

"No, sir, I don't have any memory of it," Clinton said in the sworn deposition, which was taken with Jones looking on. "But you have to remember, I've met well over a hundred thousand people since 1991, maybe over two hundred thousand, maybe more than that."

Clinton also described what he meant by the phrase "come-hither look," words that an Arkansas state trooper said the then-governor had used to describe Jones on a fateful day in the state capital.

"I might well have done that," Clinton said when asked if he had ever used that phrase with his security detail as governor. "That's a phrase I have used." Pressed for its meaning, he continued, "It means either in look or dress a sort of a suggestive appearance."

Asked by Jones' attorney if he mant sexually suggestive, Clinton said, "Yes."

In the deposition, Clinton was also asked about his role in getting jobs for some of the women said to have been subjected to his sexual advances. He generally displayed little memory of such a role.

Asked if he tried to help get Lewinsky a job at the United Nations, for example, Clinton said: "To my knowledge, no, although I must say I wouldn't have thought there was anything wrong with it."

Similarly, he said he was not notified when Willey got a job in the White House counsel's office, although he acknowledged saying to someone, "We ought to see if we could do something for her."

At times the president seemed peeved with his interrogator, as when he was asked about a "private" kitchen in the White House, a "little cubbyhole" staffed by two naval aides that Clinton argued was not at all private.

"These guys keep the door open," Clinton said. "They come and go at will."

*

Indeed, the questions about the kitchen set off something of a stream-of-consciousness complaint by Clinton about his enemies.

"I was--after I went through a presidential campaign in which the far right tried to convince the American people I had committed murder, run drugs, slept in my mother's bed with four prostitutes and done numerous other things--I had a high level of paranoia.

"There are no curtains on the Oval Office, there are no curtains on my private office, there are no curtains or blinds that can close the windows in my private dining room. . . .

"I have done everything I could to avoid the kind of questions you are asking me here today."

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