The relationship between Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky was “like a big sister and little sister,” according to a former Pentagon official in an exclusive interview with The GW Hatchet.
William Blacklow, an adjunct professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs-communications, was Tripp’s immediate supervisor at the Pentagon and said he spoke to Lewinsky on a daily basis.
Lewinsky served as assistant to Ken Bacon, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs-communication, and worked in the same office as Blacklow.
“All of us in the front office were aware (Tripp and Lewinsky) were friendly,” Blacklow said. “In terms of spending spare time together, no one had any.”
He said the two women would lunch together and talk in the office. Blacklow said their common experiences brought them together.
“Keep in mind that these are two refugees from the White House,” he said. “Both had the same background, which gave them a certain kinship.”
Tripp claims to secretly have taped conversations in which Lewinsky spoke of an affair with President Clinton. Blacklow said he was stunned when he heard the women’s names at the fore of the scandal.
“It never struck me that their friendship was anything less than genuine,” Blacklow said.
He said Tripp, who worked in community relations under his supervision, had access to taping equipment. But he said he never saw her tape a conversation with Lewinsky.
The women’s paths crossed in the spring of 1996, when Lewinsky was hired after serving as an intern and staff member at the White House. Tripp had been at the Pentagon since the summer of 1994.
According to a source close to the Pentagon, Tripp was hired there under orders from the White House.
Tripp appeared in Newsweek in August 1997 claiming Kathleen Willey, a White House volunteer, told her the president kissed and fondled her in his private office. The story ran two months after Blacklow left the Pentagon.
Blacklow said he knew Tripp was under pressure at times, including when she spoke to the Senate about Whitewater, after being one of the last people to see White House deputy counsel Vince Foster before he committed suicide.
Blacklow said he knew both women on a professional basis. He said he would speak with Lewinsky about Clinton in relatively vague terms.
“She was a young person who was fascinated by politics,” Blacklow said. “We did talk about people we know.”
He described Tripp as “apolitical.”Blacklow said he did not know the circumstances of Lewinsky’s hiring, but that she told him her she took the job to advance her career.
“She said the White House was quite an interesting place to work,” Blacklow said. “Anyone at that age, working at the White House, it’s a chance of a lifetime.”
But according to the Pentagon source, Lewinsky had a tendency to be a name dropper.
She “dropped names” that seemed inappropriate for her rank at the White House, the source said. “She had a tendency to exaggerate.”
Blacklow said he does not believe he will be subpoenaed by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who is investigating whether Clinton encouraged Lewinsky to perjure herself in a deposition.
“I’m a bit player,” Blacklow said. “I don’t think I have any information that can contribute to the independent counsel.”
Blacklow said he last spoke with Lewinsky in December, when he learned she was leaving the Pentagon.
“I offered to look around for a job for her,” Blacklow said. Lewinsky did not take him up on the offer.
Blacklow said he has no idea whether the allegations against Lewinsky are true.
“I read the paper and I begin to wonder whether I really know her at all.”