The White House on Monday questioned the credibility of President Clinton's latest accuser, saying Kathleen Willey's account of an alleged sexual advance is "contradicted" by the former White House volunteer's positive attitude toward Clinton.
Mounting a defense of the president in appearances on morning television shows, White House spokeswoman Ann Lewis said Willey's description on "60 Minutes" Sunday of the 1993 Oval Office encounter with Clinton "sur-prised" her."What I saw last night was someone who talked about being angry, feeling that she has been taken advantage of. And yet in 1996, when she was no longer associated with the president or the White House, she came to see me and said `I really want to work in this campaign,' " Lewis said on NBC's "Today" show. "There was such a contradiction between what I saw and heard last night and the person I met with in 1996."
After offering nearly identical comments on ABC's "Good Morning America," Lewis denied that she was trying to spread a White House "message" to rebut Willey's account.
"No, this is my personal message," Lewis said. "Watching last night, I thought, gee, if I hadn't had my personal experience (with Willey), how would I feel about it?"
Willey said the story she was telling on television was the same one she swore to before a Whitewater grand jury last week. Clinton has given a sworn deposition denying her account. The conflicts in their stories means that one of them has committed perjury, in the president's case an impeachable offense.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition" that if Willey is telling the truth, "then I have to tell you, I think this presidency would be over."
Clinton did not watch "60 Minutes" and does not intend to watch a replay of the show, said White House spokesman Mike McCurry. "He doesn't need to. He was there and he knows what the truth is. The president gave a truthful deposition. You have apparently two witnesses in conflict," McCurry said.
In a soft, sometimes halting voice, Willey said on "60 Minutes" that the president embraced her, kissed her on the lips, touched her breasts and placed one of her hands on his genitals.
"I thought, `Well, maybe I ought to just give him a good slap across the face,' " she said. "And then I thought, `Well, I don't think you can slap the president of the United States.' "
"I didn't feel intimidated. I just felt overpowered," she said. "Later on I was feeling angry. I was there, asking a friend, who also happened to be the president of the United States, for help."
Willey's family finances were in a state of collapse and she wanted a paying White House job when she came to see Clinton on Nov. 29, 1993. Unbeknownst to either Clinton or Willey at the time, her husband committed suicide the same day.
Willey received new support Monday from a leading feminist and from Gennifer Flowers, with whom Clinton has admitted a sexual relationship.
"Perhaps we need to redefine what a good president is, what a good man is," Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, said on the "Today" show. "This is beyond the idea of the likable rogue or the womanizer and really on into sexual assault, sexual abuse."
"I think she spoke from the heart," Flowers said of Willey. "I ask the American public why this woman would have any motive to come out. She wanted to take some control of it and tell what happened," Flowers said on "Good Morning America."