Who Was Linda Tripp?
Linda Rose Tripp worked in the U.S. Pentagon's public affairs office during the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal. Often described as the “whistleblower,” Tripp’s clandestine wiretap recordings of her conversations with Lewinsky contributed to Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998.
Early Life, Education and Career
Linda Rose Carotenuto was born on November 24, 1949, into a middle-class family in North Caldwell, New Jersey. Her father, Albert, was a high school science and math teacher and her German mother, Inge, tended to Linda and her sister. In 1967, her womanizing father deserted the family. Linda took the divorce very hard, becoming obsessive about the sanctities of marriage.
After graduating from high school, Linda attended the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school in Montclair and later became a secretary at a Morristown hotel. She met and married her very first boyfriend, Bruce Tripp, in a Roman Catholic ceremony in 1971. Bruce was an Army training officer and Linda became a dutiful military wife and model military employee who worked her way up to a top security clearance. With their two children, Ryan and Allison, the family lived in the Netherlands, Germany, Fort Meade in Maryland and at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The couple separated in 1990 and Tripp began working in Washington, D.C.
Tripp worked as a White House aide from 1990 to 1994, and then at the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs from 1994 to 2001. Tripp was fired from her Pentagon job on January 19, 2001, the last full day of the Clinton Administration. She believed she was fired in retaliation for her whistleblowing efforts that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Her claims were not supported.
When President Bill Clinton took office in 1992, Tripp was insulted by what she perceived to be a climate of sexual harassment in the White House. She believed that Clinton was a sexual predator with "libidinous impulses.” In a 2017 interview, Tripp indicated that “the housekeeping staff was afraid to bend over in his presence.” Tripp also supported claims by Kathleen Whilley, the White House volunteer who confided in Tripp that Clinton had groped her in 1993.
After moving to her public-affairs job at the Pentagon in 1994, Tripp met Monica Lewinsky, who also confided in Tripp about her sexual relationship with Clinton. Tripp was disgusted by Bill Clinton’s improprieties and wanted to reveal his transgressions to the world. She began amassing evidence via wiretaps with the intention of writing a tell-all memoir with the planned title, Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw Inside the Clinton White House, and a proposed chapter titled, "The President's Women." Her pension for "whistleblowing" came to a helm when she provided vital evidence to support Clinton’s impeachment.
In 1998 allegations regarding a sexual relationship between 49-year-old President Clinton and Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern, erupted in various media outlets. Tripp, Lewinsky’s coworker, friend and confidante, knew about the affair and began to surreptitiously tape record her own phone conversations with Lewinsky in September 1997, amassing copious amounts of evidence to reveal the salacious details.
In January 1998, she handed over the tapes to the attorneys in the then active Paula Jones sexual harassment Supreme Court case against Clinton, Jones v. Clinton, as well as to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in exchange for immunity from prosecution for her participation in illegal wiretapping. Tripp also told Starr about another piece of key evidence: Lewinsky’s semen-stained navy blue dress that Tripp convinced Lewinsky not to have dry-cleaned.
Based on Tripp's tapes, Starr obtained approval from Attorney General Janet Reno to expand his investigation. Informed by evidence from Tripp, Kenneth Starr’s The Starr Report: The Independent Counsel’s Complete Report to the Congress on the Investigation of Bill Clinton (1998) and The Starr Evidence: The Complete Text of the Grand Jury Testimony of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (1998) provided compelling support for perjury charges against Clinton and Lewinsky.
President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives but was acquitted by the Senate in 1999. In her testimony to the jury, a tearful and betrayed Lewinsky stated her last words to the court: “I hate Linda Tripp.”
Character Assassination Lawsuit
Due to her label as the “whistleblower” in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, many blamed Tripp for smearing Clinton’s name and legacy. Tripp was under intense scrutiny and confidential information from her personnel files, FBI files, security files and other government records made its way into the media. Tripp indicated that the information leak to the media was intended to spread "embarrassing or damaging information for partisan political purposes."
Tripp filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Justice Department for releasing her information in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 and sought restitution for "harm to reputation and emotional distress and humiliation." The government settled and awarded her a one-time payment of more than half a million dollars, a retroactive promotion, retroactive pay at the highest salary for 1998, 1999 and 2000 and a pension.
After more than 20 years of silence, Tripp emerged as an outspoken opponent of the Clintons. Especially during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Tripp repeatedly described Hillary as a key leader in White House efforts to cover up allegations of Bill’s involvement in sexual harassment. Tripp also revealed that the publicized assault allegations of powerful men, including Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, caused her to "relive a lot of it."
A breast cancer survivor, Tripp spent her later years with her second husband, German architect Dieter Rausch (married in 2004). Living in rural Virginia, they owned and operated a retail store, The Christmas Sleigh, selling German holiday ornaments and trinkets.
Tripp died on April 8, 2020, according to her lawyer, Joseph Murtha.
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