Kathleen Willey’s new book publishes for the first time an alleged admission by private investigator Jack Palladino that he was hired by Hillary Clinton to investigate Willey and bore responsibility for acts of harassment and intimidation designed to silence her explosive testimony of sexual assault by President Clinton in the Oval Office.
In “Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton,” released this week by World Ahead Publishing, WND Books’ partner, Willey presents the claim by San Francisco talk-radio host Melanie Morgan, who recounts a private conversation she had with Palladino and his wife, Sandra Sutherland, at a conference in 2003.
Asked by WND to respond, the San Francisco-based Palladino recalled speaking at the conference and said he might have met Morgan, but he emphatically denied having a conversation that bore any resemblance to her claims and suggested several times he could sue the KSFO talk host for libel.
“It’s total fantasy,” he told WND. “No, that’s too kind; it’s a lie.”
Morgan, a WND columnist, said she was not surprised by Palladino’s response and stands by her story “100 percent.”
“He has been well known for lying and protecting his clients for as many years as he’s been a private detective,” Morgan told WND. “I have no reason to make it up, no motivation to exaggerate.”
WND reported Monday the book includes Willey’s suspicion her husband, whose death was ruled a suicide, may have been murdered.
In September, WND reported Willey’s belief the Clintons were behind the theft of a copy of the manuscript for “Target” from her rural Virginia home.
Morgan said she met Palladino and his wife at the annual Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, Calif., in 2003. She approached the veteran PI seeking resources for a mystery novel she was writing and quickly developed a rapport, finding him “gregarious and outgoing.” Eventually, as Willey writes, Morgan “finessed a little more information out of him,” asking, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, with the business you did for Hillary Clinton?”
Morgan then specified, “You know, come on, that stuff with Kathleen Willey was pretty outrageous. What was that?” she said, smiling. “You guys ran over her cat? What was that all about?”
Morgan was referring to one of many threatening incidents Willey says culminated just two days before her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case in an encounter with a “mysterious jogger.” The man, according to Willey, threatened her and her children, by name, and referred to her damaged car and missing 13-year-old cat. The message, she said, was clear: Remain silent.
Morgan told WND she has no doubt that Palladino admitted to her he had a role in intimidating Willey.
“It was crystal clear to me at the time that he was bragging about the fact he had done it,” she said in a phone interview. “Literally, his body puffed up, a slow grin spread across his face. I could see conflicting emotions playing out, ‘Should I say anything?’
“His ego grabbed hold of him, and he started bragging,” Morgan said.
In “Target,” Morgan says Palladino, when confronted with “the business you did for Hillary Clinton,” looked up and “kind of gave me a lazy smile, and his wife, who is British, shot her husband a look.”
Morgan, after specifying she was talking about Willey, then quotes Palladino saying, “Well, I’m not really going to comment about that, but let me just say this. The only regret that I had about the whole thing was that Hillary did not pay me in a timely fashion.”
Palladino told WND he has no idea what Morgan is talking about, insisting he worked for Bill Clinton’s campaign, not for Hillary, and arguing he had never even heard anyone suggest Hillary had a reputation for not paying people on time.
“The record is very clear,” he said. “I was retained by the campaign committee. I was paid. You can look it up in the federal records. My bills were submitted, my payments are part of the public record. That’s who retained me.”
He laughed at the suggestion he worked for Hillary Clinton.
“Why would Hillary’s name come up (in Willey’s book)?” he asked rhetorically. “Because it’s 2007, and that’s the only thing that really brings (Willey) any news.”
He repeated his charge that Morgan’s account is “absolute fiction.”
“The woman is either high on something – she is from San Francisco … – or she is simply lying. Do you know what lying is? Lying is, ‘I made it up to get famous.’ Lying, OK.”
Morgan told WND she clearly remembers the brief conversation with Palladino.
“The truth is the truth, as much as Mr. Palladino would like to bend the facts to fit his agenda,” she said. “Libel works both ways.
“He was clearly proud of work he did,” Morgan added. “He was just aggravated that he didn’t get paid in a timely fashion.”
Michael Isikoff first reported in the Washington Post Palladino was hired in 1992 for more than $100,000 in “legal expenses” to handle what Clinton aide Betsey Wright called “bimbo eruptions.”
In his interview with WND, Palladino avoided answering whether he had any role in any of the reported campaigns of intimidation against women whose claims of sexual misconduct by the president threatened to damage or destroy the Clintons’ political fortunes.
He emphasized, instead, that he personally never threatened anyone and focused on reports that he at one time was identified as the “mysterious jogger” who confronted Willey near her home.
Willey contends she never identified Palladino himself as the jogger.
But in the phone interview, Palladino played up the idea, recalling that his friends laughed at the notion of him jogging, saying they knew the minute they read it that it couldn’t be him.
“Which is to say,” he explained, “if she said somebody came up to her in a double-breasted, beautifully tailored $5,000 suit, they might have believed her. If they said the person was walking in a slow amble, probably munching something, they might have believed her.”
Laughing, Palladino said, “The concept of me being in a jogging suit, jogging, was unbelievable, I’m telling you.”
Who killed the cat?
In the book, Morgan says Palladino’s wife entered the conversation after his statement about Hillary not paying him on time and “started making some nasty comments” about the former first lady.
Willey cites Morgan saying, “The two of them were laughing and snorting over the fact that they had to bring a certain amount of pressure to bear” to get paid.
Morgan kept the conversation going, smiling as she asked, “you didn’t really kill her cat, did you?
Palladino, according to Morgan, indicated his work was “more like dumpster diving,” but the talk host says the investigator “smiled when he said it and looked at his wife, and alarm bells were going off, like ‘Shut up!”
Hearing this claim from the book, Palladino, again, told WND it’s completely false.
“My wife often looks at me like alarm bells are going off,” he laughed, “but for other reasons – after 31 years of marriage, you know.”
Morgan, according to the book, says Palladino “definitely acknowledged” involvement with the disappearance of Willey’s cat and indicated his “biggest regret was that he didn’t get cash up front from Hillary Clinton.”
Palladino told WND that claim is “utterly false – so false that it is hard to even know how to respond to it beyond saying there isn’t a word of truth in any of that statement.”
Morgan finally quotes Palladino saying, “I save Hillary Clinton’s a–. You’d think she’d be more grateful to me.”
Palladino called that a “fiction.”
“It isn’t true; I wouldn’t say it,” he insisted. “It’s ludicrous. It doesn’t even make sense.”
Palladino emphasized he was not denying he ever met Morgan.
“But I’m telling you, I never said those things.”
For a second time in the phone interview, he raised the prospect of suing Morgan.
“I don’t really know Melanie. I don’t know who she is, but you’ve sure got me interested,” he said. “… I have the resources. See, I’m both a lawyer and an investigator, and I have the resources to take on someone like Melanie Morgan.”
He ended the conversation abruptly, refusing to answer questions about whether he had any role in intimidation campaigns.
“We’re done … and now I want to find out who Melanie Morgan is and what kind of (financial) assets she has. Bye,” he concluded, laughing.
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