Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen refused to be “trotted out” and “used” by then-President Bill Clinton when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke nearly 25 years ago, according to explosive claims in a newly released book.
During the Clinton presidency, Yellen was nominated to a position on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, a role that she held for three years. In 1997, Clinton named Yellen to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
In January 1998, it was revealed that Clinton had been carrying on a years-long affair with Lewinsky, a young White House intern.
Initially, the president denied having “sexual relations” with the then-25-year-old intern. But Lewinsky’s sworn testimony before a grand jury as well has her secretly recorded conversations with a friend, Linda Tripp, contradicted those claims.
In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Clinton later acknowledged a relationship that was “inappropriate.”
Yellen “initially believed Clinton’s denial about having sex with Lewinsky,” author Owen Ullmann writes in his new book, “Empathy Economics: Janet Yellen’s Remarkable Rise to Power and Her Drive to Spread Prosperity to All.”
“Even so, friends said she was bothered by the White House ploy to marshal support for the president,” Ullmann writes.
Ken Starr, the independent counsel who was investigating the Whitewater affair, learned of Tripp’s tapes. He then expanded his probe into the Lewinsky matter, during which he learned that Clinton lied under oath about his dalliances with the intern.
Starr died on Tuesday at a Houston hospital. He was 76 years old.
In an effort to mitigate the political fallout from the scandal, the White House asked “everyone — particularly female officials — to go before the news media gathered outside the West Wing and publicly defend him,” according to Ullmann.
The author writes that Yellen wanted no part of advocating on Clinton’s behalf to the press. She also had a convenient way out.
“Yellen didn’t have to worry about doing that since her office was next door to the White House, and she could use a side exit and avoid the throng of reporters,” Ullmann writes.
A female colleague of Yellen’s told the author that the Yale-educated economist was “suspicious of what they were doing.”
“It left a bad taste and a feeling that a lot of the women shared of, frankly, being used,” the colleague told Ullmann.
“It was pretty stunning to think they expected the women to be trotted out.”
The colleague added: “Some did. Some stood in front of the White House and vouched for the president.”
Yellen’s son, Robby Akerlof, told Ullmann that then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the most high-profile woman in the administration, “seemed in particular to be pushed out there” and that Yellen was “a little bit encouraged to go out there with” the nation’s top diplomat and stick up for the president.
But Yellen “definitely didn’t want to go out and be one of those validators,” according to her son.
Colleagues told Ullmann that Yellen “tried to compartmentalize” the scandal since “she had to provide Clinton his weekly economic briefing, sometimes in person.”
A female colleague of Yellen’s said “one of the hardest decisions ethically to make was do I stay at the council working for someone whose behavior towards women I thought was terrible.”
Ultimately, Yellen “chose to stick it out,” according to the author.
Clinton was eventually impeached by the Republican-led House of Representatives, though he was acquitted in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to convict the president.
The Post has sought comment from Yellen, Lewinsky, and Clinton.
A copy of the book, which was published by PublicAffairs, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, was obtained by The Post. The book goes on sale on Sept. 27.
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