WASHINGTON — Linda Tripp, the Pentagon publicist whose secret recordings of Monica Lewinsky talking about sex with president Bill Clinton led to his impeachment, died Wednesday at 70.
Her former lawyer, Joseph Murtha, confirmed the death, and US media cited family members saying she died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Tripp was a public affairs official of the US Department of Defense when her co-worker Lewinsky, who had served as a White House intern in the mid-1990s, told her she had secretly had sexual encounters with Clinton in the Oval Office.
In conversations Tripp secretly recorded, Lewinsky said the two had had sex on numerous occasions and that she had saved a blue dress she wore during one that still had stains of Clinton’s semen on it.
Tripp then took the recordings to independent prosecutor Ken Starr, who used them to expand a separate investigation of Clinton.
Clinton at first denied the relationship, declaring from the White House: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
But Tripp’s recordings and the blue dress she urged Lewinsky to save as an “insurance policy” blew the case open.
In 1988 Clinton ultimately was impeached by the House of Representatives and placed on trial in the Senate for lying and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted.
The affair made Tripp a villain to Democrats and Clinton supporters, but a minor hero to Republicans.
Tripp said in a 1999 interview, on the day of Clinton’s acquittal, that she had no regrets despite having received numerous threats.
“The public has no clue… absolutely no idea what Monica endured,” she told NBC.
“It was worth it to me to do what I considered to be my patriotic duty.”
She was later forced from her job, in which she was a political appointee, when Clinton left office in January 2001.
After that she moved to Middleburg, Virginia where she operated a Christmas store, The Christmas Sleigh, with her second husband Dieter Rausch.
Lewinsky, who made clear at the time that she felt deeply betrayed, tweeted earlier Wednesday about Tripp after news emerged that she was severely ill.
“No matter the past, upon hearing that Linda Tripp is very seriously ill, I hope for her recovery. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”