The Bond and Bad Blood Between Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp: Secret Tapes, Codenames and That Blue Dress
The new FX series Impeachment: American Crime Story, which premiered Tuesday, retells the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and its aftermath, putting a spotlight on the friendship — and ultimate falling-out — between Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky in the process.
Tripp, played by Sarah Paulson in Impeachment, changed the course of American history when she secretly recorded her friend, Pentagon co-worker and former White House intern Lewinsky, as the latter detailed her affair with former President Bill Clinton in what she thought were private conversations
Tripp went on to share the recordings of Lewinsky, played by Beanie Feldstein in the show, with independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating Clinton. The rest is history.
Here is a look back at Tripp and Lewinsky's relationship and how it evolved as the scandal engulfed each of them. (And yes, as depicted in Impeachment, Lewinsky did call Tripp a "treacherous b----" after she realized what Tripp was doing.)
How They Met
Tripp, a career civil servant, had worked for two decades as a secretary for the military before landing a job working in the George H. W. Bush White House in 1990. After Clinton defeated Bush in 1992, Tripp stayed on to work for White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum and deputy counsel Vince Foster.
Two years into Clinton's first term, she was transferred to the Pentagon public affairs office where she met Lewinsky, a former White House intern who had recently been moved to the Pentagon.
The two became close despite a 24-year age gap and, over time, the 20-something Lewinsky began to share intimate details about her time with a married man: President Bill Clinton.
Lewsinsky first opened up to Tripp about her dalliances with the commander-in-chief in 1996 and continued to share details about the relationship in several phone calls.
Tripp, in turn, met with literary agent Lucianne Goldberg about the conversations, in the hopes of using them as part of a future book (which never came to fruition). Goldberg encouraged her to record Lewinsky — and has insisted she did so in order to help Tripp protect herself from any claims that she was lying.
When Tripp Began Recording
She started to record her conversations with Lewinsky in the fall of 1997, amid independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into Clinton's conduct with another woman, Paula Jones.
During their conversations, in which they referred to the president as "the big he" (or "the creep"), she also convinced her co-worker and purported friend to preserve a semen-stained blue dress she said she had worn with Clinton when they had sex.
After Tripp shared what she knew of the relationship with Starr, she handed over some 22 hours of taped phone conversations to investigators and agreed to wear a wire to meet with Lewinsky at a Washington, D.C., hotel in January 1998.
There, FBI agents confronted the unsuspecting Lewinsky, igniting an impeachment investigation of Clinton hinging on the evidence provided by Tripp. That material, including the audio and the infamous blue dress, was used against the president and he was impeached by the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, acquitted him.
For her cooperation, Tripp received immunity from criminal charges for the secret taping.
Speaking to Larry King in 2003, Tripp said she felt the country "needed to know" how the president was behind closed doors: "The arrogance — the reckless arrogance that was going on in the Oval Office."
When King pressed her on the secret recordings of someone who considered her a friend, she responded: "First of all, documenting the evidence was something that happened long after I knew Monica Lewinsky. And after she was informed repeatedly that I would not help President Clinton fix the court case."
Her plan — coupled with her work in President George H. W. Bush's administration and her association with a book agent for a possible Clinton White House exposé — opened her up to criticism that she was partisan and self-interested rather than righteous.
Lewinsky, for one, was furious with Tripp, whom she had considered a confidante.
While delivering her testimony during Clinton's impeachment probe, Lewinsky stated that she "hated" Tripp.
When asked if she had anything to add during her testimony in front of a grand jury, Lewinsky said, "I'm really sorry for everything that's happened. And I hate Linda Tripp," according to The Washington Post.
Tripp, meanwhile, has denied that she was ever friends with Lewinsky, despite the intimate details shared with her amid their hours and hours of private conversations.
"It wasn't a friendship," Linda previously told Fox News. "I wasn't her mother on any level."
What Became of Tripp
She created a new life for herself after she was dismissed from her job as a political appointee in the Pentagon in 2001, on the final day of the Clinton administration.
In 2004, she married Dieter Rausch, a man whom she had known since she was a young girl, according to a Middleburg Life profile. Mr. and Mrs. Rausch settled on a farm in Middleburg, Virginia, where they also operated a Christmas store called the Christmas Sleigh.
Still, Linda spent years resolving other legal issues after making the Lewinsky tapes: She sued the government, claiming they violated her privacy, and received a six figure-settlement in 2003; charges in Maryland that she illegally recorded Lewinsky were dropped in 2000 because Lewinsky was barred from testifying.
In 2017, Linda told Page Six that life on her farm was "paradise with complete autonomy and privacy," adding: "And that's how I like it."
Linda also reportedly underwent several cosmetic procedures, bankrolled by an anonymous benefactor, in the years following the scandal, which exposed her to public scrutiny over her looks. John Goodman played her on Saturday Night Live.
"The notion of betrayal is ridiculous," Linda told PEOPLE in 2003. "If I had looked perky, sweet and cute, I wouldn't have been defined the way I was by the press."
Linda died in April 2020 at age 70, with her daughter Allison Tripp Foley writing in a since-deleted Facebook post: "My mommy is leaving this earth. I don't know myself if I can survive this heartache. Please pray for a painless process for the strongest woman I will ever know in my entire lifetime."
Her son-in-law Thomas Foley told The New York Post on at the time: "She fought on as hard as she could. I know all the press will focus on the other stuff, but she was a special person and a fantastic grandparent who was devoted to her family. People forget this part."
Despite their falling-out, Lewinsky shared well wishes for Tripp's family upon learning the news of her illness.
"No matter the past, upon hearing that Linda Tripp is very seriously ill, I hope for her recovery," Lewinsky wrote on Twitter. "I can't imagine how difficult this is for her family."
Impeachment: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. ET) on FX.