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Wednesday, January 28, 1998 Published at 10:44 GMT

Special Report

All the President's words
image: [ Clinton:
Clinton: "There is no improper relationship"

President Clinton has appeared on television and radio to deny that he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky and told her to lie under oath about it. But his choice of words has been slightly confusing.

Clinton on PBS television: "It's not true" (Dur: 4' 10")
When asked if he had an affair with the former White House aide he said: "There is no improper relationship. And I intend to co-operate with this inquiry."

"There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship."

When asked whether he had conversations with the woman about her possible testimony, Mr Clinton said, "I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. That's my statement to you.

"Given the state of the investigation right now it would be inappropriate for me to say more."

In what he later described as a reference to his "furious" reaction to the accusations, Mr Clinton said: "What I'm trying to do is to contain my natural impulses and get back to work."

The present tense

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, writer Christopher Hitchens said Mr Clinton's present tense reply to the questioning was intentional.

Hitchens: "He was coached" (Dur: 33")
"This was not a confusion of tenses, it was an attempt to confuse the tenses. He then said he claimed he had not asked anybody to lie, when the allegation was that someone had done the asking for him.

"He repeatedly doubled away from the very, very clear and understandable, intelligible questions that were asked.

"Clearly the President had been coached by lawyers and spin doctors," he said.

David Gergan, a former White House adviser, said: "In the first interview the President gave there were a number of weasel words and loopholes in the language."

But in a later interview with Roll Call newspaper, Mr Clinton stepped out of the present-tense formulation he had previously been using.

"The relationship was not sexual," he said.

Gergan: "It could catastrophic" (Dur: 29")
Mr Gergan said the whole issue was much larger than the specific words that Mr Clinton had chosen to express himself.

"I think he is emphatically on record as telling the American people he had no affair with this woman and he never tried to get her to lie about it. If either one of those turns out to be false I think he has broken his bond with the American people _ the consequences could be catastrophic to his presidency," he said.

But in the interview with the newspaper Mr Clinton disagreed that the allegations, if proven, could provide a basis for impeachment.

"I don't believe that it will," he said.


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