Why I Had to Betray Monica; Tripp Speaks: Woman Whose Secret Tapes Sparked Lewinsky Scandal Says Revenge Was Not Her Motive

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The woman who sparked the Zippergate scandal yesterday insisted she only wanted to protect Monica Lewinsky.

Linda Tripp, who secretly taped Lewinsky talking about her affair with the president, said her former friend had been "abused, used and discarded" by Clinton.

And she claimed the ex-White House intern, whom she decribed as "a lost soul" had become hysterical and threatened suicide several times.

Tripp said: "I believe she and the country will never understand that I believed this was in her best interest, and that makes me very sad.

"As a mum, especially wih a daughter close in age to Monica, I would hope some other mum would do for my daughter what I did for Monica despite the fact thay it looks horrible - that it looks like betrayal."

Tripp was speaking for the first time about the scandal which has rocked America for the last 13 months.

Last summer, Lewinsky told the grand jury she now hated her ex-colleague - but Tripp said she was still fond of Lewinsky and desperately tried to justify her actions in a series of newspaper and TV interviews.

She told NBC's Today programme that Lewinsky was "clearly a young girl head over heels in love" with the president.

But she added: "He clearly did not share those feelings and his callous abuse in discarding Monica Lewinsky made it look as if he thought of her as a servicing contract - a woman who could be easily discarded."

She also defended her action in urging Lewinsky to hang on to the now- infamous blue dress stained with Clinton's semen.

Tripp said: "Where would Monica be today without that dress? Tell me.

"Would she be the stalker? Would she be the person who demanded sex of the president? Where would Monica be?"

Tripp, 49, has become one of the most hated women in America over her role in the Lewinsky scandal.

She was given a White House job by Republican president George Bush, but switched to the Pentagon in 1994 after a series of run- ins with Democrat Clinton's aides.

Her unlikely friendship with Lewinsky flowered in 1996 when both women were working at the Pentagon.

Towards the end of that year, Lewinsky began confiding in Tripp about her affair with Clinton, which had started in 1995.

Tripp was no friend of the Clinton administration - she had already been accused by them of lying over claims another White House staffer had been groped by the president.

And now she saw her chance for revenge.

Tripp had been thinking about writing a book about life at the White House and consulted New York literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, a self- confessed Clinton hater.

He advised her to tape her conversations with Lewinsky - the idea was to disclose just enough salacious detail to titillate the public and help sell her book.

It would also put one over on the hated Clinton White House.

In January last year, Tripp handed over more than 20 hours of tapes to independent prosecutor Ken Starr, who had originally been appointed to probe the Whitewater land deal.

But yesterday Tripp insisted revenge was not the motive for her betrayal of Lewinsky's trust.

She claimed she acted out of "patriotic duty" and added: "I didn't believe that Monica could put this behind her unless it was severed once and for all. …