A special year-end edition of the New York Times Magazine featured a sour “tribute” to Linda Tripp, who became famous during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and who died this year of pancreatic cancer, in a section marking notable deaths in 2020.
The headline was “Linda Tripp Was Cast as a Villain During the Clinton Impeachment.” And despite a little revisionism thrown into the middle section, the paper did the same thing in the story, written by freelance contributor Irina Aleksander.
The call-out box read: “She was cast as the ultimate villain during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.”
By whom? Both Democrats and the press, working arm and arm to defend Clinton from impeachment. When she died, The Washington Post painted her as "stuck forever in the role of the duplicitous harpy who betrayed then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky by secretly recording their conversations."
Back in 1998, Geraldo Rivera sang on TV about "the treacherous Tripp." ABCNews.com compared her to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Aleksander opened with a puzzling, pseudo-profound anecdote about a pregnant horse that fell into Tripp’s swimming pool before some honest admission on how the press reviled Bill Clinton’s female accusers (but without calling out the Times itself).
Once again, the Times failed to conceal its hostility toward Tripp, showing its standard, all-seasons protectiveness surrounding Democratic presidents.
Tripp was portrayed not as the hero but as the villain of the impeachment scandal at the time. The tapes confirmed the affair, but they also revealed Tripp’s sustained deception. It was Tripp who had encouraged Lewinsky to not dry-clean the blue Gap dress; to ask the president for a job; to use a messenger service to send him letters -- all to build a body of evidence.
Recent years have been kinder to women once judged harshly. See Hollywood’s rehabilitation of Tonya Harding, Marcia Clark and Lorena Bobbitt. Lewinsky, everyone now seems to agree, was taken advantage of by her boss and slut-shamed by the country
Now imagine if the "villain" who was "building a body of evidence" was helping The New York Times take down a conservative or Republican. Working against an intern-exploiting #MeToo president makes you a "villain."
She quoted filmmaker Blair Foster, who made the documentary series The Clinton Affair, and who boasted of rehumanizing Clinton’s accusers:
....including Paula Jones, who described Clinton inviting her to his hotel room, where he exposed himself to her; and to Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape….Like those women, Tripp was eviscerated in the press....
The Times shamelessly joined in that evisceration at the time. Unlike Christine Blasey Ford, or any of the women who tossed out increasingly bizarre allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Times second-guessed Tripp for coming forward about a young woman being taken advantage of by a now-powerful man. In the press hall of heroes and villainous whistleblowers, Tripp will never receive the heroine treatment provided to Kavanaugh’s accuser Blasey Ford, who was given vastly more positive coverage based on a completely unsubstantiated claim of sexual assault, where she could not cite a time or a place she met Kavanaugh:
It’s plausible that Tripp wanted to hold someone she saw as a bad man accountable. But that doesn’t feel like the whole story. Was publicly humiliating Lewinsky the best way to save her? Or to entrust the matter to a special counsel and a book agent? Did Tripp not see that or did she choose not to?....
Aleksander relied heavily on Tripp’s appearance on a 2018 podcast, “Slow Burn,” to criticize her autobiography and fault her for the faux pas of for some bizarre reason disliking Bill and Hillary Clinton. She ended with a truly offensive metaphor, especially in a story marking the subject's death.
It’s hard to know how Tripp saw her story in the end. On “Slow Burn,” she sounded regretful about deceiving Lewinsky. “To this day I have enormous guilt about doing that,” she said. I expected more of this when I picked up her book. But that’s not what it is. Tripp’s ire for the Clintons in it is boundless….Part of what makes it all hard to read is the obvious hurt and anger of someone who felt so fundamentally misunderstood. The more evidence Tripp mounts to clear her name, the more it is like watching a thrashing animal unable to escape a trap of her own making.