Editor’s note: This report, a first-person account of what may be
the single most extraordinary and revealing encounter between President
Bill Clinton and a member of the press, is excerpted from the March
cover story in WorldNet magazine. Readers can subscribe to
WorldNet at WND’s online store.
WASHINGTON – There’s probably no finer place to throw a party than
the South Lawn of the White House, and no better time to do it than on a
mild and breezy day in early fall. And there’s probably no guest more
grateful for such a free fete than the Washington press corps.
My colleagues will climb over each other to get to a table full of
rubbery hoagies, soggy chips and stale Budweiser. Doesn’t matter what it
is, really, so long as it’s free.
But this. This was hog’s heaven for the cheap scribes who filed onto
the White House grounds that Friday night in September for a Cajun party
in their honor. What a spread. On red-checkered picnic tables spanning
the length of the plush green lawn, beckoned trays of jambalaya, boudin
and boiled shrimp.
And the bars, under colorful tents, were stocked full of liquor. No
kegs here. Black-tie-clad help poured your favorite libation from
bottles. Forget Budweiser, they had Guinness Stout and other imported
brews. Fine reds and whites, too, and highballs. All free.
Zydeco tunes skipped across the crowd of giddy guests. As the sunny
day faded to dusk, the soft lights of the White House portico glowed
behind us. Intoxicating. What a night.
But for me, there was still something wrong with this party –
namely, the host.
President Clinton, the function’s main attraction, was due to make a
cameo appearance at any moment. Despite having to wade through 40-plus
scandals over the previous seven years, my cohorts in the press were all
atwitter at the prospect of pumping Clinton’s arm and snapping shots of
him with their spouses and kids.
Just 48 hours earlier, four FBI agents had testified before the
Senate that Justice Department lawyers had stopped them from pursuing
leads back to Clinton in the ongoing campaign-finance investigation.
Not only that, agents swore that lawyers for months had blocked their
request to ask a judge for a warrant to search the Little Rock, Ark.,
office of Clinton fund-raiser Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie. Agents sifting
through his trash found that key records subpoenaed by the Senate had
Among the torn-up documents: Checks from Asian donors to Clinton’s
legal defense fund, Democratic National Committee donor lists, travel
records for Chinese money men and statements from Chinese bank accounts.
There was also a FedEx slip showing the White House
had sent about two pounds of records to Trie less than
two months before the 1997 Senate probe of Chinagate
What’s more, one agent said 27 pages of notes detailing her struggles
with Justice over the Trie case were ripped out of spiral notebooks
after she turned them over to her superiors.
The explosive testimony was ignored by most of the media. But I
couldn’t shake it from my mind, no matter the occasion. Was Clinton’s
attorney general covering for him in one of the gravest probes in U.S.
history, one with national security implications? Did Clinton have any
knowledge of it?
Sometime after 6 p.m., the president emerged from the Oval Office.
Dressed in a suit, he strolled down the walkway, only to disappear
through a doorway. His aide Sidney Blumenthal strolled on and joined the
crowd. At his side was Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. (I ran into Markey later
in the evening inside the White House. He was giving his wife and father
a tour. Markey’s now all over the TV talk shows flacking for Vice
President Al Gore’s campaign.)
The suspense built as the guests closed in around a loose rope line
that stretched from the edges of the Oval Office area to the stage where
the band played. Then at last, Clinton came out of the White House,
wearing what can only be described as a get-up — tight black pullover
shirt, tight black pants with a big silver-buckle black belt, and black
Strutting past me, he looked like a bad imitation of Johnny Cash. Or
was it an over-the-hill Elvis? Tom Jones? Whatever, the silver-haired
devil made a bee-line for the stage, climbed up on it and drawled on
about how great it was for all of us to be there with him on such a
wonderful night listening to such great music. At that, a guest tried to
hand a tenor saxophone up to him. Several painted-up women pushed their
way to the stage. By the way, Clinton remarked, “Hillary wanted to be
here with y’all, but she’s up in New York tonight.” Wink-wink.
Little did he know that in just a few minutes a rude guest would give
him a Maalox moment to remember and probably spoil any entertainment
plans he had for the evening.
As Clinton worked the rope line on his way back toward the White
House, it was hard not to be taken up in the electricity of the moment.
Everyone was having such a good time. And a buoyant Clinton was working
the crowd, yucking it up like no one can. At one point, he was even
wearing baubles around his neck. Husbands were offering up their wives
and children for grip-and-grin shots. Photojournalists were camped out
like paparazzi. Why not? A notorious celebrity was in their midst. Even
one of my reporters was snapping shots with his instamatic — for his wife.
I stood there slack-jawed, watching one powerful journalist after
another clamor like so many fawning teen rock-idol fans to grasp the
hand of the most corrupt president in U.S. history.
So many scandals, so many unanswered questions — so many unasked questions. National security at stake. That little boy
there, that little girl over there … your sons, your daughters. Don’t
you care what this president has or hasn’t done with our military
Maybe I just cared too much. Relax. Yes, have a good time; it is a
party after all. Don’t be so serious. Loosen up.
But just as I was about to give in to the perverse euphoria,
suspending disbelief about the harmlessness of old Slick like everyone
else around me, I recalled a Proverb I’d read that morning — “Do not
envy wicked men, do not desire their company” — and I closed my eyes
It was my turn to meet the celebrity president. As he approached me,
I politely, if coolly, asked him when he would hold his next formal
press conference. It had been several months since his last, and he’s
had fewer than any recent president. I admit I was trying to agitate the
proper forum for questions about the FBI agents’ charges. But to me,
this was still a rather innocuous question, even within the supposedly
neutral zone of a party. A relevant question, too, given the gathering.
Other hard-nosed reporters surely were wondering when they’d get another
crack at Clinton.
Or so I thought. My simple question was rewarded with boos and hisses
from the adoring Clinton groupies around me. So much for the adversarial
A heated Bill Clinton eyeball to eyeball with WND’s Paul Sperry
But that was nothing compared with Clinton’s reaction to my inquiry
about his next press confab. In an instant, his 100-watt charm shut off,
replaced by a taunting belligerence. “Why?” he barked.
“Because the American people have a lot of unanswered questions,” I
replied, struggling to hold my bladder. At that point, he moved back
down the rope, pulling up square in front of me, and demanded, “Like
“Well, like illegal money from China and the campaign-finance
What happened over the next 10 minutes was nothing short of a
“scene.” The party-goers collapsed in around us. I watched the blood
rush to Clinton’s gargantuan face as he launched into a tirade against
ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, the FBI, Bob
Dole and Republicans in general. All the while, he tried to belittle me
by making faces (to get a rise out of his fans) and intimidate me by
getting in my face.
And now I can see how he can do that to people. Clinton’s not just
intellectually intimidating, he’s physically imposing. He’s tall (6-2)
Luckily, I’m the same height and was able to stand toe-to-toe and
eye-to-eye with him. I’ll never forget the maniacal look in his
bloodshot eyes. There was a moment, fleeting, where I sensed he wanted
to try to take a swipe at me. I was getting full frontal Clinton. His
volcanic temper, hidden so well from the public by his handlers, erupted
less than 12 inches from my eyes.
Clinton always is game for a debate. That I asked him hard questions
at a party wasn’t what ticked him off. It’s what I asked him about. He
clearly doesn’t want to talk about the mother of all scandals –
He also may have been thrown by my grasp of the facts. I’d been
tracking the Beijing-tied Lippo Group’s influence in the Clinton White
House since 1996, and have been suspicious of the probity of Attorney
General Janet Reno’s special task force since she let John Keeney Sr.
set it up — a month after the election — to look into Lippo’s
Keeney’s son is none other than a defense attorney for John Huang,
the former Lippo executive and convicted Clinton-Gore fund-raiser.
Junior, who’s also a long-time Democratic National Committee lawyer, cut
Huang a deal with daddy’s old task force that got him no jail time and
immunity from prosecution for espionage.
Clinton also was unprepared for my tenacity. Other reporters may back
down after he singes their eyebrows with a verbal fusillade. Dummy me, I
hung in there for more abuse, challenging his answers, following up with
more questions. Which only made him madder.
The preceding excerpt is actually the first third of an in-depth
4,400-word expose, with photos, by WND’s Washington Bureau Chief Paul
Sperry in the March edition of WorldNet Magazine. The exchange between
Sperry and Clinton continues to heat up, spanning a total of 10
questions and answers, in this remarkable and revealing “in-your-face”
encounter. Readers may subscribe to WorldNet by visiting WorldNetDaily’s online store.