The third episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story shows the net begins to tighten on four women caught up in the scandal – Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Linda Tripp – as reporters start to smell the scent. No one can be sure who will support them or who will betray them to deflect the wrath of the powerful interests for which they are but pawns in a much larger game.
The birth of Drudge
The episode begins with what appears to be a digression: An employee at the CBS Studios gift shop sells an Edward R. Murrow poster to a journalism student, but says he prefers Walter Winchell, the dreaded gossip columnist known for his quick and harsh speech. boiled style that inspired JJ Hunsecker in Sweet smell of success and who pioneered the blind object while moonlighting as an informant to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, with whom he shared his determination to root out alleged Communist sympathizers from showbiz. After work, Matt Drudge digs through the CBS trash for a dumped draft contract with Jerry Seinfeld and posts it on his America Online account (young viewers may be stunned by the precise portrayal of how long it took to get it right. connect in 1995).
Two years later, Drudge, now in a signature fedora and trench coat, visits reporter Michael Isikoff in the Newsweek offices. This is a classic showdown between traditional media and new media, with Isikoff dismissing Drudge scoops as mere unsourced internet gossip and Drudge pointing out that unsourced internet gossip has opened up the world of information. He also says he didn’t go to college, unlike all Newsweek reporters, but the internet is leveling the playing field so qualifications don’t matter anymore. He’s also trying to convince Isikoff to confirm rumors he heard (from one of Paula Jones’ attorneys) about Kathleen Willey’s allegations that Bill Clinton sexually harassed her in the White House.
While it’s not clear whether Drudge has ever had this conversation with Isikoff, he certainly expressed similar sentiments in a 1998 speech to reporters at the National Press Club in which he said he used to ” staring at the Washington Post newsroom on 15th Street, looking up longingly, knowing that I will never enter. I did not go to the right schools. I never liked any school, in fact. I didn’t come from a well-known family, and I wasn’t even remotely linked to a powerful editorial dynasty. … I would never get any access, get no credentials.
He worked for eight years in the CBS Hollywood Studios gift shop before launching a gossip email newsletter that quickly reached over 300,000 subscribers. Throughout the episode, people are constantly asking if Drudge’s voice and costume is real, but he was a fully constructed character. As one of his friends told New York magazine, “His behavior off the air couldn’t be more different than what he is on the radio. … There is a deep sweetness in him; he has a delicate nature that allows him to defeat the enemy when he is in the room with them.
Hillary will not settle down
After the Supreme Court ruling in 1997 that Paula Jones can sue a sitting president, Clinton’s attorney Bob Bennett recommends his client settle down rather than go to trial. At first, Clinton is reluctant, convinced that this will not stop further unfounded lawsuits against him because his political enemies “are trying to use the legal system to overturn an election.” However, when Bennett points out that leaving it up to a jury to decide will mean her past will be unearthed, Clinton says, “Hillary will never let me settle down.”
It is well known that Hillary Clinton considered the best defense to be a good offense. When singer Gennifer Flowers claimed in 1992 that she had a longtime affair with the then governor, Hillary told Esquire that if she had the chance to cross-examine Flowers, “I would crucify her.”
Hillary’s reasoning was that these business allegations were simply part of a campaign by a “broad right-wing conspiracy” to bring down the Clintons. She may have put too much faith in her husband’s denials, but time has shown her analysis to be more valid than paranoid. In January 1997, the Washington Post reported that as early as 1995, the White House office of the council had documented what it called “a close connection … between Republican elected officials and the right-wing conspiracy industry.” A far-fetched rumor (saying, for example, that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster) would appear in media like Drudge or in right-wing think-tank publications, then picked up by conservative-leaning British tabloids like the Daily Mail or by conservatives. newspapers like the Washington Times, until it finally became mainstream news.
At the time, many called the White House theory strange and “loaded with suspicion”; today, this concept of a right-wing media pipeline is widely accepted. But that doesn’t mean that the allegations he made in this case were necessarily false. Hillary later wrote in her autobiography Living history that opposing a settlement with Paula Jones was a mistake.
The hairdressing salon meeting
After Drudge gets Isikoff back by posting an (unverified) article about Kathleen Willey’s allegations that Clinton groped her into the West Wing against her will, Isikoff phones Tripp, desperate to have her checked in. Tripp asks her to meet her at an address, which turns out to be a hair salon where she gets her locks done. Tripp refuses to confirm Willey’s story, claiming that while Clinton did indeed kiss Willey in the White House, Willey was only too happy to comply. Linda then suggests that Isikoff misses the big story, that Bill is having an affair with a young intern. Isikoff is spotted by a Washington Post reporter who her combed hair, but the quick-witted Tripp claims to be his cousin Harriet.
As unlikely as it sounds, this is where Tripp decided to speak with Isikoff, as the Starr report confirmed. “He [Isikoff] met me at the barber and came over to talk to me while I had my hair done, ”Tripp told Starr investigators. But it was worse than a Post reporter simply acknowledging Isikoff. “Turns out a Washington Post reporter was there and walked up to me and said, after Mike left, ‘Are you Kathleen Willey? ”Tripp testified, although the Post could not confirm this with any staff member. And yes, as the episode shows, Tripp made Isikoff use the codename “Harvey” whenever he called him.
Paula doesn’t want to settle down
After the appearance of Drudge’s blind article on Willey’s allegations, Clinton changed her mind. Paula’s lawyers call her to report with great satisfaction that Bennett has offered the full amount she requested – $ 700,000 – along with a statement that she has not engaged in any improper behavior. Paula is thrilled with the amount of money that changed her life but, after a private discussion with her husband Steve and advisor Susan Carpenter-McMillan, she declines the offer unless Clinton also apologizes. What neither she nor the lawyers know is that before she arrived, Susan – one of the radical Conservatives who wants the case to stand trial for Clinton to lie under oath – had to work on Steve, pointing out that if Paula accepts the money, there will always be murmurs about her. Moreover, the money does not come out of Clinton’s pocket but that of his insurer. Steve wants to hurt Clinton more than anyone else, so he tells Paula to decline the offer.
According to an account by Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker, Jones effectively rejected the deal, insisting that she wanted an apology from Clinton as well as money. The lawyers, who had been working on the case for more than three years, often without pay, were furious. Toobin also blames her for refusing the deal at Steve’s door, noting that “if anyone pushes Paula into her lawsuit, it appears to be her husband, Stephen Jones, who appears consumed with fury against Clinton.”