Arkansas state trooper denies key part of "Troopergate" story

Arkansas state trooper Danny Ferguson accuses the co-author of the Los Angeles Times 'Troopergate' story of 'putting words in my mouth'.

By Murray Waas

Published March 24, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

In a sworn deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, President Clinton's co-defendant, Arkansas state Trooper Danny Ferguson, has testified that Clinton never offered him and another trooper federal jobs in exchange for their silence about Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs.

Ferguson's statement contradicts a critical element of the so-called "Troopergate" exposis that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the American Spectator in December 1993. The stories in the two publications alleged that Clinton had offered Ferguson and Trooper Roger Perry jobs in exchange for their silence.

Ferguson accused Times reporter William Rempel, co-author of the Troopergate story, of "badgering" him and "putting words in my mouth." Ferguson also stated in the deposition that Rempel falsely reported that the trooper had corroborated a key part of the Times' story. Rempel vehemently denied the charges.

The American Spectator article first disclosed the encounter between Clinton and a woman only identified as "Paula" at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock in May 1991. Later, Jones sued both Clinton and Ferguson, the trooper who brought her to a room in the hotel to meet Clinton, where she alleged that he harassed her.

The Los Angeles Times story quoted Perry as saying that Ferguson had told him of three phone calls with the president during which Clinton offered Ferguson and Perry federal jobs in exchange for their silence. The newspaper also reported that Ferguson "confirmed the accuracy of what Perry said about the substance of the calls."

Only days after the article appeared, however, an attorney for Ferguson, Robert Batton, denied the newspaper report, issuing an affidavit on Ferguson's behalf that stated: "President Clinton never offered or indicated a willingness to offer any trooper a job in exchange for silence or help in shaping their stories."

Not long after the affidavit was issued, Ferguson recalled in the deposition, he was telephoned by Rempel, one of the Times reporters who co-authored the newspaper's article about the troopers' allegations.

"He (Rempel) called and was really upset, because he said that my affidavit undermined his article," Ferguson testified. "He kept trying to badger me and put words in my mouth. Yes, sir, he did ... (He) kept putting words in my mouth (as to) what the president might have said. I said, 'He didn't say those words.'"

In an interview Monday night, Rempel denied that he had pressured Ferguson to say something untrue. "To suggest that a newspaper reporter could intimidate an armed officer of the law, who has among his friends the president of the United States, is ludicrous on its face."

Ferguson also denied in his sworn testimony that he ever corroborated Perry's account to the Times: "I had never told Rempel anything about jobs. Roger Perry had told him. I didn't."

Ferguson also testified that before the article was published, he told Rempel that Perry's account was not true: "He (Rempel) tried to put words in my mouth that the president had offered me a job for silence, and I said, 'He didn't say that.'"

The Times also suggested that it was Clinton who had first contacted Ferguson, in an effort to silence him and other troopers.

Ferguson testified, however, that it was he who initiated all three telephone conversations he had with the president: "I would call the governor's -- or excuse me, the president's -- office here in Little Rock and ... (they) would in turn get a message to him."

Ferguson testified that he had called the president to warn him that his fellow troopers were talking to the press: "I told him that he had left a lot of mad troopers, because he didn't even bother to come and thank them for their duty and this and that and that there were several people around Little Rock that was wanting to write a book about him."

But according to Rempel, Ferguson told him in a tape-recorded interview just prior to publication of his story in the Times that Clinton had indeed offered him and Perry federal jobs in exchange for their silence. In an article that ran in the Times on Saturday, Rempel quoted from the interview, which appears to contradict Ferguson's sworn testimony in the Jones case. Rempel also read to Salon unpublished portions of the transcript of his interview with Ferguson. In the transcript, according to Rempel, Ferguson said, "He (Clinton) asked me ... 'Dan, would you like to have a job? Would you like to come to D.C.?'"

Ferguson claimed to have turned Clinton down, only to have the president persist. "He said, 'Well, there is going to be a regional job open up with the Federal Emergency Administration.' ... He didn't specify a city. He said, 'Or there is a U.S. marshal's job open.'"

In his deposition, Ferguson insisted that many of the stories about Clinton's extramarital affairs that troopers Perry and Larry Patterson told to the Times and the American Spectator were exaggerated, or not true at all.

In separate interviews, both Perry and Patterson said they have always told the truth. Perry said, "I have paid a great price for speaking out, and I did do because it was the right thing to do." Patterson said, "I stick to my stories."

Ferguson did confirm one account by Perry and Patterson. He said that he told the two troopers that he had brought a woman friend to the governor's mansion to meet with Clinton in the pre-dawn hours on three or four occasions in the weeks after he was elected president in November 1992. The woman has denied that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton, and Ferguson has said he has no knowledge of such a relationship.

In addition to Ferguson, Ronnie Anderson, another of the four troopers who originally spoke to the Times and the American Spectator about Clinton's alleged affairs, has also raised questions about the veracity of the stories. Anderson has said he corroborated stories that Perry and Patterson told the press, even though he had no first-hand knowledge that they were true.

In a sworn affidavit prepared for the Jones case, Anderson said, "From what I heard the other troopers say and from (what) I ... read in the American Spectator, the stories that were provided were nothing more than old fish tales, with little, if any, basis in fact."

In the April issue of Esquire magazine, the author of the American Spectator's Troopergate story, David Brock, repudiated the article, questioning his sources' credibility. "The troopers were greedy and had slimy motives, and I knew it," wrote Brock. "But that wasn't going to stand in my way."

Murray Waas

Murray Waas is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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