February 18, 1998 in Nation/World

White House Aide Apologizes For Remarks ‘Lapse In Sanity,’ Mccurry Says Of Comments On Lewinsky Case

Angie Cannon Knight Ridder

A federal grand jury investigating the relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky resumed work Tuesday, while at the White House, a sheepish presidential aide apologized for his on-the-record musings about the alleged affair.

Retired Secret Service officer Lewis C. Fox testified for about two hours about his knowledge of a Lewinsky visit to the Oval Office in 1995. Later in the afternoon, the grand jury heard from Steve Goodin, a White House staffer who was Clinton’s personal assistant for three years.

In a related development, lawyers for Clinton filed documents in federal court in Little Rock, Ark., asking U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright to dismiss Paula Jones’ sexual-harassment lawsuit.

Clinton’s lawyers said that after five months of gathering evidence, Jones’ lawyers have been unable to prove her case. In what is a fairly standard legal maneuver, the president’s lawyers said the case should be dismissed without a trial.

But Tuesday’s focus seemed to be on White House spokesman Mike McCurry, who was quoted in Tuesday’s edition of The Chicago Tribune as saying that the president’s relationship with the former White House intern may turn out to be a “very complicated story.”

McCurry, respected by reporters as well as White House insiders, has been the model of cool caution in handling questions about the Lewinsky case during his daily White House briefings.

By day’s end Tuesday, McCurry was describing his remarks to the Chicago newspaper as a “lapse in sanity.”

McCurry’s words attracted attention because they were unusually candid for a spokesman who has managed to deflect questions about Lewinsky with good humor and bite.

“Maybe there’ll be a simple, innocent explanation” in the Lewinsky situation, he told the newspaper.

“I don’t think so, because I think we would have offered that up already.”

“We are not in a position to provide a full and complete account, so the art is to make sure everything we say is truthful and credible,” he said at another point. “I think it’s going to end up being a very complicated story, as most human relationships are. And I don’t think it’s going to be entirely easy to explain maybe.”

McCurry’s comments were part of a wide-ranging interview about what the newspaper called “the emotions, fears and ‘tell-the-truth slowly’ strategies of an embattled White House.”

On Tuesday, during his regular briefing, McCurry found himself doing what no spokesman ever wants to do - talking about himself rather than his boss.

McCurry acknowledged making the comments. Sometimes, he said, “being a spokesman means shutting up.”

“I’ve put myself in my own doghouse for having answered questions that I shouldn’t have answered.”

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