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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 13:37 GMT

Betty Currie: Innocent or enabler?

Betty Currie, flanked by press, on her way to testify

Bar the accusations levelled by Mr Starr, it is difficult to find a bad word said against Betty Currie, President Clinton's private secretary.

[ image: Betty Currie would ferry Ms Lewinsky through the White House]
Betty Currie would ferry Ms Lewinsky through the White House
Her friend Lisa Caputo, a former press secretary to Hillary Clinton, said: "Betty Currie is a gem, a true gem. I cannot tell you how much it hurt to see her go into that Grand Jury amidst that circus outside."

Nevertheless, Ms Currie has been at the centre of Mr Starr's investigation. The ninth of 11 impeachable charges accuses Mr Clinton of trying to persuade her to lie on his behalf.

Just doing her job?

Betty Currie appears to be one of the most unwitting personalities in the Lewinsky scandal.

But others are less forgiving, and accuse Ms Currie of knowingly assisting the sexual affair between the president and the intern. The Independent Counsel, Kenneth Star, calls her an "enabler".

Her part is mainly that of a go-between. She told prosecutors that she sometimes sacrificed her Sundays to come into the office for no other reason than to clear Ms Lewinsky to enter the building.

She would leave her alone with the president for periods of 15-20 minutes and appears to have suspected the nature of the relationship.

[ image: Ms Currie would leave the pair alone]
Ms Currie would leave the pair alone
Once when Ms Lewinsky tried to tell her about the affair, Ms Currie cut her short with the reply: "Don't say anymore. I don't want to hear."

As well as ferrying Ms Lewinsky to and from the Oval Office, she is said to have paged Ms Lewinsky using the code-name "Kay".

When, last December, Ms Lewinsky told the president she had been subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones case, Ms Currie drove to her flat, picked up a box of gifts, took it home and put it under her bed.

A dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, Ms Currie joined Clinton's campaign staff in 1992 and became his secretary the following year. She had previously worked as office manager for Geraldine Ferraro's vice presidential campaign and Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign.

As "gatekeeper" to the president, the 58-year-old is seen as one of the most powerful black women in America. She regularly worked 12-hour days for her 40,000 salary, handling the president's correspondence and telephone calls.

Her admiration for Mr Clinton seems to have verged on hero worship. She once described him as "one of the nicest, most wonderful people" she had ever worked for.

Asked to lie?

According to the Starr report, President Clinton verbally ticked off points in her presence, saying: "You were always there when she was there, right? We were never alone. Monica came to me and I never touched her, right?"

Ms Currie testified that the president's tone suggested these were statements, not questions.

According to the "charge sheet": "The president improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition."

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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