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Notes On A Scandal

Presidential huddle

With new charges emerging that investigators now have at least one witness to an “intimate encounter” between the president and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton huddled Sunday with key advisers to plot a public defense against the gravest challenge to his presidency.

But as the nation fixated on each new revelation, a senior White House official said that the president did not plan to mention the scandal in his State of the Union message on Tuesday night and that he will proceed with scheduled trips to Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and LaCrosse, Wis., the next day to face the public directly for the first time since the scandal broke.

A virtual scandal San Jose, Calif.

Matt Drudge, self-styled Walter Winchell of cyberspace, hit the big score last Sunday morning. A full 72 hours before the nation’s major media would embrace the scandal, the 31-year-old gossip-broker posted the first telegraphic alert to the Drudge Report, his Web site at

“At 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, Newsweek magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!”

By that afternoon, the story had migrated to the Washington talk shows. So who is Drudge? This cyberspace Horatio Alger is a former CBS gift shop worker with no college education, no journalism training or experience. He began as a gleaner - poring over as many as 30 online papers a day and cybercasting his juiciest finds via e-mail from a hand-me-down computer in his tiny Hollywood, Calif., apartment. He hustled his way to a seat at the new media trough by doing precious little original reporting. Instead, he is a vector for rumors and hot tips. And for the mainstream media, Drudge is the canary in a coal mine. When a story is so caustic that every prudent journalist steps back, you can bet someone will give Drudge just enough of a push to go in and test the air.

Book agent suggested taping New York

Lucianne S. Goldberg, a veteran literary agent whose clients have also included former Los Angeles Police detective Mark Fuhrman, said she talked with former White House staffer Linda Tripp about taping Lewinsky’s conversations “back in September.” But Goldberg insists she has no interest in promoting the tapes or her relationship with Tripp, who had set out two years ago to write a tell-all account of Clinton’s presidency.

The view from Paris

“Have you Americans gone crazy? … when the president of the United States wants to have a little fun on the side, how can you be so uptight?”

Philippe Jacquet, a lawyer opining over a morning mug of draft beer in a Paris bistro.