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Garry Trudeau On A Paula-Bill Settlement

Getting it behind them: In which Paula and the president find language they can live with

By Garry Trudeau

Time cover

(TIME, June 16) -- Spinning, feinting, jabbing, the lawyers for Paula Jones and Bill Clinton spent the week negotiating in public--leaving the rest of us to wonder what backstage progress was being made toward sparing us the horror, the horror, of a trial now that the Supreme Court won't stop it. Everyone smells settlement, but has the language been found? Probably not, but most insiders agree that the broad outlines will look something like this:

In regards to the events outlined in Civil Action No. LR-C-94-290, the Defendant (President William J. Clinton) and the Plaintiff (Paula Jones) have agreed on the following statements from the respective parties.

Clinton: I acknowledge that on May 8, 1991, in my role as Governor, I may have attended my own conference on quality management at the Excelsior Hotel. While I have no recollection whatsoever of making eye contact with Ms. Jones across the lobby, I do not contest her claim that I did so, since I am often called upon to make direct eye contact in the course of my official duties. I also do not dispute Ms. Jones' contemporaneous assertion to Trooper Ferguson that I had "sexy hair."

Jones: I am deeply grateful for the President's admission that he came into my world and changed it forever on May 8, 1991. As for the eye contact, it was my impression at the time that the Governor was evaluating me as a promising young state employee and not as a potential oral-sex partner, and I stand by that initial impression.

Clinton: I have no recollection of ordering Trooper Ferguson to arrange a meeting between myself and Ms. Jones, but I do not challenge her claim that I did so, since as Governor, I often convened meetings wholly unrelated to sexual activity. I vehemently deny sending Ms. Jones a note with my suite number on it, although if I did, it was only to alert her, as a state employee, as to the temporary location of the office of the Governor.

Jones: I appreciate Mr. Clinton's admission that he met with me alone in his hotel suite, a meeting I had every reason to believe was related to the Governor's interest in advancing the career of a total stranger. I stand by my earlier claim to have been shocked that this was not the case.

Clinton: I have no recollection of exposing myself to Ms. Jones, although it may be a possibility inasmuch as I regularly adjust, lower or remove my pants in the course of normal grooming or hygienic routine, and she may have been inadvertently included on one such occasion. I do, however, deny that I then directed Ms. Jones to perform anything that would fall outside her normal duties as a conference hostess.

Jones: I am grateful that the President concedes that something took place in his hotel suite. I stand by my earlier statement that after Clinton kissed my neck and fondled my leg, I walked away and sat down on the sofa, giving him a second chance to discuss my employment prospects. That he chose not to has haunted me ever since, along with his distinguishing characteristics.

Clinton: Although I have no memory of these events, I do not challenge Ms. Jones' sworn assertion that at the time I escorted her to the suite door, my pants were up. I also do not contest that I said to Ms. Jones as she left, "You are smart," although I have no recollection as to what I could possibly have meant by that.

Jones: I stand by my story that I was so shaken by these events that I filed suit a full two days before the statute of limitations ran out. Although I never lost my job and I received regular pay raises, I was unable to advance my career as quickly as I had assumed I could by meeting the Governor in his hotel suite, and was thus deprived of my constitutional rights.

Clinton: I do not dispute Ms. Jones' claim that she did not engage in any improper sexual conduct, at least during the few minutes I am able to account for her activities. I deeply regret any untrue assertions that have been made about her character and good name, particularly those concerning a dollar amount that might attract her attention were it dragged through a trailer park, the settlement amount of $700,000 rendering such assertions substantially inaccurate.

Jones: My interest has never been the money, and no part of the $700,000 will go to the lawyer I engaged to sell TV, movie or apparel rights. Although the original untrue assertions appeared only in the American Spectator [circ. 5], I continue to believe that bringing my story to the attention of billions of people around the world has served to clear my good name.

Clinton: I have no further comment about any other conduct of which I have no recollection.

Jones: I accept the President's apology.

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