WASHINGTON, D.C. —After 18 years, Linda Tripp — a key figure in the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal — emerged on Capitol Hill Monday for the first time in public and declared her only regret about blowing the whistle on Clinton was that she did not do it sooner.
“I told the truth. I do fault myself for not having the gumption or the courage to do it sooner,” Tripp told attendees during an event hosted by the National Whistleblower Center honoring National Whistleblower Day in D.C.
“I was faced with a culture of corruption and, again, this is not partisan in any way. It was infecting the office of the presidency,” she said.
Tripp, a former White House staffer who recorded phone call conversations she had with former Clinton White House intern Lewinsky, as a way to prove the president was having an affair with the then-intern, received a warm welcome among the community of fellow whistleblowers.
“I was quiet for many years,” she said. “I was afraid on many levels to speak up. There was a quote, and I will give you the quote: ‘We will just have to destroy them.’ I first heard these startling words in the West Wing of the White House. They were chilling.”
She added, “They were not directed at me, but in early 1998, I began to fully comprehend what the politics of personal destruction really, really means.”
Tripp was ostracized by the media at the time for her role in revealing Bill Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky. “Saturday Night Live” sketches mocked her appearance, and cable news shows included hosts and pundits who accused her of betraying Lewinsky.
Tripp told the audience of fellow whistleblowers that despite knowing the capability of the White House she worked for at the time, she was still “ill-prepared for the power and the fury — in the end — in the overwhelming effectiveness of the smear campaign.”
“‘We’ll just have to destroy them,’ was now personal, and I was the target.” Referencing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she added, “I know what a real high tech lynching feels like. I felt like that’s exactly what happened. It began with the smoke and mirrors that you saw on your TV.”
When asked later by The Daily Caller why she decided to step forward after 18 years in obscurity, she replied, “Because it’s important. Because it’s honoring whistleblowers. It’s long overdue. We aren’t necessarily recognized for achievement,” Tripp said.
“Generally, we’re castigated for people who have a gripe. Instead, we need to look at whistleblowers as people who are proactive patriots — people who want a good result and believe in truth and integrity. It’s worth it for me to come out of my comfort zone and to be here today.”