Paula Jones's Credibility Gap

FINALLY THE WHITE HOUSE was getting some good news in the Paula Jones case. First came press reports that the former Arkansas state employee did receive a merit raise after spurning Bill Clinton's alleged advances-contradicting a central claim in her lawsuit that she'd been "punished" as a result. Then conservative activists announced a fund-raising drive to help pay neatly into the White House's contention that she was being used by Clinton's political enemies to undermine his presidency. "Big sigh of relief." said a White House aide. "For once things moved our way."

Jones's attorney, Joseph Cammarata, retorted that the aspersions against his client were "typical attack the plaintiff" tactics. And Jones herself told a New York Daily News reporter: "This has to do with what Clinton did to me. It has nothing to do with who I am or what I was in the past." Still, it was hard to discount the growing questions about her credibility. Dave Harrington, Jones's former boss at the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, dismissed the notion that the alleged incident had affected her job rating, or that anyone even knew it had occurred: "That [story never, never surfaced. Yet almost every detail of her life, every event, every argument was daily news at the office." Mike Gauldin, Clinton's former press secretary, recalled that Jones liked to mill around the reception desk in the governor's office-even after the alleged encounter. "I remember her because when she was there, I had to listen to hours and hours of beauty-shop inane conversation ... She was a groupie."

Jones wasn't available to dispute such charges last week, and it was left to old friends to tell her life story. They depicted the former Paula Corbin as a Dogpatch Madonna who cut loose after a strict religious upbringing in Lonoke, Ark. Her father was a Church of the Nazarene preacher who banned TV from the house and made Paula and her sisters wear long skirts. When Paula got to secretarial school in Little Rock, a longtime friend said, she started smoking, drinking beer, dancing and doing other things that were forbidden at home. One former boyfriend, telephone technician Carl Fulkerson, said he broke up with Jones because of her flirtatious behavior: "It got to the point where I couldn't believe her or trust her. I don't like games." She held a series of brief jobs-at a trucking company, a department store, a car-rental agency and a pest-control firm-before joining the AIDC in 1991. She staved almost two years after the alleged encounter with Clinton-twice as long as she'd remained at any other job.

Paula met Steve Jones, her future husband, on the dance floor at B.J.'s Star-Studded Honky Tonk in Little Rock. An aspiring actor. Jones played Elvis's ghost in an art film called "Mystery Train" and worked for Northwest Airlines. Acquaintances said he was intensely jealous and loudly anti-Clinton. "He didn't like the idea of her hanging around all these big shots," said Jim Fenderson, a former co-worker. Steve moved Paula and their young son to California last year to further his acting career. Speaking through the intercom of their modest oceanfront condo in Long Beach last week. he told NEWSWEEK: "Paula has no comment. You can print what you like. It looks like from what I read you haven't got the full story on anything..."

In theory, the tangy tales floated by relatives and old boy friends about Paula's past should have little bearing on her charges against Clinton-any more than a rape victim's sexual history should be used against her in court. But defense attorneys do that all the time, and Jones can expect no less if her case ever comes to trial. Jones's lawyers would be equally quick to seize on details of how Clinton caused "pain in his marriage." White House aides were drolly speculating about depositions describing distinguishing characteristics of "the presidential penis." It's no surprise that Clinton attorney Bob Bennett is doing everything possible to have the case dismissed as soon as possible.

Paula Jones's Credibility Gap | News