Linda Tripp, the career civil servant who ignited the impeachment of President Bill Clinton by tape-recording his mistress, has died. She was 70.
Tripp was working in the Pentagon when she befriended Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who was having an affair with the president. In 1997, she made 22 hours of surreptitious recordings of Lewinsky speaking about the affair, and then handed them over to special prosecutor Ken Starr.
To Clinton’s supporters, Tripp became one of the primary villains of the impeachment episode — a false friend who had betrayed Lewinsky’s confidence out of partisan motives. Tripp, however, remained unapologetic about her role in the scandal.
Speaking to the Slate podcast “Slow Burn” in 2018, Tripp said she hoped at the time that taping Lewinsky would ultimately benefit her. She also remained adamant that Clinton’s misbehavior with a 22-year-old intern deserved to be exposed.
“What I did do was make a conscious choice to say this is unacceptable, completely unacceptable for anyone, let alone the leader of the free world in the Oval Office,” Tripp told Leon Neyfakh, the podcast host.
Lewinsky recalled to Barbara Walters her feeling when she realized that Tripp had taped her: “Gutted and violated and betrayed. And scared.”
“I have never been so afraid in my entire life,” she said. “I wanted to die.”
Clinton denied the affair when it was exposed in January 1998 — saying he “did not have sex with that woman.” He also denied the affair in a sworn deposition, leading to his impeachment on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. After a 21-day trial in 1999, he was acquitted in the Senate.
In the podcast, Tripp said the impeachment scandal “doesn’t define my life.” She also said that had Clinton been truly censured, “we’d be in a different place today.”
“I think #MeToo would have been history and we would have been so much further along with ensuring that none of this happened in the workplace, making it the exception rather than the rule,” Tripp said.