Rise and Shine: A Day with Kathie Lee Gifford

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Bonding with the Clintons

And get this: She says it's not really about sex with these power adulterers. "Sex is just a symptom. It's the way he acts out on a problem that's already innate, which may be control, power, self-loathing. I'm not going to try to psychoanalyze men because I'm not qualified to do that. But what's fascinating to me is these are all men who have everything to lose. It's like going to Vegas -- it's a crapshoot and they're going, 'I'm going to win it.'" She pauses to dissect a rosy strip of beef. "I don't understand the men who will risk everything that matters for something that doesn't matter at all."

Despite today's breathless, breaking news reportage on marital sprains and fractures, it's all a very old drama, she says. "Shakespearean. Especially with these high-profile type-A men who are used to nothing but power in their lives, it takes this kind of tragedy for them to get on their knees in humility, whether it's before their God or their wife or their country. All three in the case of Bill Clinton."

Gifford knows the Clintons and recalls with gratitude and some humor the day in 1996 that Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up to help cut the ribbon at the opening of Cassidy's Place, which houses the Association to Benefit Children, a New York-based care facility she and Frank were opening to support children who suffer from serious disabling conditions, including AIDS. The timing was unfortunate; both women had just been hung out to dry in the headlines, the First Lady for her federal grand jury testimony in an Arkansas-based real estate scandal and alleged cover-up, and Gifford for the revelation that some of her clothing line was produced in Manhattan sweatshops and by child labor in Honduras. Gifford says the First Lady didn't have to honor an old promise to be there, given the fresh complications. While she declines to assess Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, she says she was impressed with her loyalty.

"Hillary showed up in the middle of her Whitewater debacle and I was on the page of every newspaper being accused of being a child exploiter. And Frank looks at us and says, 'Gee, I'm not sure the two of you should be seen together in a picture.' Little did we know that the next year, neither of us would want to be in a picture with Frank!"

She laughs easily now. But the late '90s were no picnic for the Giffords or the Clintons. During the revelations of the president's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent perjury and impeachment hearings, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford had a special window into the Clintons' agony. "We have letters from Bill Clinton written at the White House that would break your heart. Written to us. Letters that will never be seen. They're in our safe. He was going through his own personal hell then as well."

Continued on page 4:  Rebuilding Trust

 

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