BY DAVID ESPO
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON -- Speaker Newt Gingrich told fellow Republicans on Wednesday that President Clinton's own account of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky depicts him as a "misogynist," GOP congressional sources said. Gingrich argued forcefully for releasing a videotape of Clinton's grand jury testimony.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that at a closed-door meeting of GOP lawmakers Gingrich detailed Clinton's version of events in his relationship with the young aide -- multiple episodes in which the president received oral sex without touching her sexually and with no instances of sexual intercourse.
If that account is to be believed, Gingrich said, Clinton's behavior is that of a "misogynist," a word the dictionary defines as a hatred of women.
Gingrich made the comment as he argued against a suggestion that Republicans reconsider plans to release a videotape of the president's Aug. 17 grand jury testimony.
The full Judiciary Committee is to meet Thursday in closed-door session and is expected to vote to release the videotape -- over the objection of Democrats -- as well as other evidence. Asked what recourse Democrats have, the panel's senior Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan replied: "Resist."
In the weekly GOP caucus, or conference, Gingrich noted the House had voted last week to release the material that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had compiled as evidence of impeachable offenses. The speaker said Clinton's lawyers continue to mount a legalistic defense, these sources added.
The speaker made his comments as the GOP point man in the impeachment review, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., conceded "youthful indiscretions" with a woman more than three decades ago, at a time when both were married to others. Hyde was 41 at the time.
He issued the statement as Salon Magazine, an online publication, circulated copies of an article detailing an alleged affair between Hyde and the woman in the 1960s.
In his statement, Hyde said, "The only purpose for this being dredged up now is an obvious attempt to intimidate me, and it won't work. ... I intend to fulfill my constitutional duty and deal judiciously with the serious felony allegations presented to Congress." Several House Republicans, without citing proof, said they believed the White House had played a role in the development of the Hyde affair story -- the second in recent weeks about a prominent GOP committee chairman.
One senior GOP source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday night that if Clinton doesn't fire anyone responsible on his staff, or otherwise rein in allies, Republicans will retaliate. He noted that Republicans have numerous weapons at their disposal, including a variety of investigations that are relatively dormant now but could be intensified to the discomfort of the administration and its allies.
Salon said it did not get the story from the White House, and the former husband of the woman involved told The Associated Press that the affair was revealed to the magazine by a friend of his.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry also denied that anyone there was involved, saying Clinton and deputy chief of staff John Podesta had made it clear that anyone who peddled such information would be fired.
For his part, Clinton urged the public and Congress to avoid getting "mired in all the details" of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
Asked whether he might resign, he declined to answer yes or no, responding instead that Americans "want me to go on." He would not respond to questions about whether he had committed perjury or whether Ms. Lewinsky told the truth when she described their White House trysts.
According to several sources, Hyde earlier told the GOP caucus that he had heard that friends of the White House had hired two law firms to dig up embarrassing information about prominent Republicans. These sources said Hyde provided no details, and the White House has denied any such "scorched earth strategy."
He later told reporters that the issue had come up last week at a meeting with senior administration officials, and that Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta and White House counsel Charles Ruff assured him the White House would not tolerate such actions.
Christina Martin, Gingrich's press secretary, issued a statement that did not confirm the speaker's closed-door remarks but said: "Speaking with great clarity and a calm focus, the speaker reminded members that we have a duty to the American people as voted on by Republicans and Democrats alike that includes giving the public access to all the facts.
"They can reach their own conclusions free of spin and misleading," she added.
The House voted last week, 363-63, to release the 18 boxes of evidence that Starr has submitted, minus any material that the Judiciary Committee finds unsuitable for the public.
The House can release grand jury material because federal court rules saying such material should be kept secret apply only to the judicial branch, Republicans and a number of Democrats have said. Republicans have been pressing to make Clinton's videotaped testimony public this week, and Democrats have complained loudly that he was being singled out for unfair treatment.
Republicans have for the most part stood firm. But sources said that inside the GOP caucus Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut expressed concern about creating a perception that the Republicans were "piling on" if the videotape merely consisted of more of the same type of salacious detail contained in the report released last week.
Gingrich spoke next, according to the sources, reminding the rank and file that the entire House had voted to release the material, criticizing the lawyerly defense that Clinton's team has been mounting, and then reviewing the president's account of his relationship with Lewinsky.
He concluded his comments by urging Republicans to continue working on year-end legislative business while the Judiciary Committee does its work. He was applauded as he finished speaking. Gingrich's "misogynist" comment echoed one made back in January by William Ginsburg, who was then Ms. Lewinsky's lawyer. Ginsburg said that if Clinton had done what he was accused of, "he's a misogynist."