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Friday, September 11, 1998 Published at 15:16 GMT

Linda Tripp: Friend and foe

By BBC News Online's Jane Black

She's the woman who threw a lifeline to the ailing Starr inquiry - and the former friend that Monica Lewinsky has come to hate.

But apart from the fact that Linda Tripp surreptitiously recorded more than 20 hours of conversations with the former White House volunteer and secretly wore an FBI microphone, hard evidence about her character has been hard to come by.

The release of additional evidence to the Starr inquiry includes a wealth of material that focuses on the woman who brought the story to the world stage in January.

And that evidence suggests the woman one opinion poll described as the most-hated person in America is a paranoid and back-stabbing friend.

[ image: Back-stabber or just like you?]
Back-stabber or just like you?
She filled pages of a notebook with Monica Lewinksy's shared confidences. She piled up a bowlful of tapes of their private conversations. She urged Ms Lewinksy not to clean the now-infamous blue dress. This from the woman who has offered herself to Americans as someone "just like you".

The evidence, admittedly, is one-sided as the latest details come chiefly from those who say she betrayed them. Her own Grand Jury testimony remains secret.

The documents however offer glimpses of Mrs Tripp in her own words and how she was instrumental in bringing the story to light.

Scribbled handwritten notes lay out the stream-of-consciousness story entrusted to her by Ms Lewinsky, a woman half her age.

The more innocuous notations include the words: "heavy session", "no kissing", "romantic", incredible", "wore tie" and "fooled around".

E-mail messages reveal how close Mrs Tripp and Ms Lewinsky were.

Mrs Tripp plays the older, wiser woman filled with practical advice to the vibrant, energetic and sometimes reckless Ms Lewinsky.

"Thanks God for you. Oh Linda, I don't know what I am going to do," Ms Lewinksy wrote when her relationship with the president took a downturn.

"CALL ME WHEN YOU GET IN," writes Mrs Tripp after the famous Romeo and Juliet valentine to the president ran in the Washington Post classified section.

"It read beautifully, placement was great, typeface totally effective and text superlative - good job."

But these kind of mundane, friendly messages are unlikely to win Mrs Tripp much support since her reputation has already been poisoned in the minds of many Americans.

She is already notorious for being close to many breaking White House scandals.

She was the last person to see Vince Foster alive, the former White House counsel who committed suicide in 1993.

She was also the original source of information regarding Kathleen Willey, one of the so-called president's women.

Mrs Tripp says she saw Willey emerge from the Oval Office with smeared lipstick and rumpled clothes, adding that Ms Willey confessed that Mr Clinton had allegedly made a sexual advance.

Polls taken in July before she testified before the Grand Jury showed that she was the most hated woman in America, despite her insistence in her sole interview that she only wanted "to tell the truth".

This finding echoes the response Monica Lewinsky gave in her Grand Jury testimony when asked about the friend turned informer: "Ugh! I hate Linda Tripp."

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In this section

Profile: Lewinsky sees name in lights

Key figures in the Senate trial

Vernon Jordan: Smooth operator

Sidney Blumenthal: Starr witness

Kenneth Starr: Bullyboy or crusader?

Betty Currie: Innocent or enabler?

President Clinton's best defence

Tough Hyde

Sex and the White House

Linda Tripp: Friend and foe