WASHINGTON, DC—With sexual-misconduct allegations continuing to envelop his presidency, President Clinton held a press conference Monday to reiterate his strong denial of charges that he had sex with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
"We did not have sex," said Clinton in a terse, carefully worded statement. "We made love. Sweet, sweet love."
Clinton, who in the past has emphatically denied ever having sexual relations with Lewinsky or telling her to lie about it, held fast to his earlier remarks.
"I said that I did not have a sexual relationship with that woman, and I stand by the truth of that statement," Clinton told reporters. "We did not, I repeat, not, have a mere sexual relationship. What the two of us shared that fateful year we spent in each other's arms was so much more than that."
According to Clinton, between December 1995 and April 1996, he and Lewinsky did not merely have sex. Rather, he said, they lounged luxuriously for hours in the Oval Office, reading each other poetry, feeding each other strawberries, and tenderly caressing each other about the face and neck before surrendering to desire and consummating their heartfelt passion.
"These base allegations of a tawdry, superficial sexual involvement—motivated in no small measure by my political opponents' desire to further their own right-wing agenda—are completely unfounded," Clinton said. "It went way beyond the physical. This was more than just the intertwining of two bodies. It was the union of two souls."
When asked to respond to charges that he advised Lewinsky to lie, Clinton insisted that he never did any such thing.
"Let me make this perfectly clear," Clinton said. "Never at any point did I tell Ms. Lewinsky to lie. Neither, for that matter, did I ever tell her how or where to lie. I may have said, 'Honey, could you shift your leg over a little bit here?' or 'Sweetie, try arching your back a little more,' but that is certainly not the same as telling her to lie, or advising her as to what specific position to lie down in."
"Every time she did so," Clinton said, "she did it completely of her own volition, opening herself to me out of the deepest love and devotion."
In closing, Clinton told reporters: "If the exchange of pure, unconditional love between two human beings is a crime, then I am guilty. But I must ask you all: If we were to outlaw love, where would that leave us as a nation? Where would we as a people be without that special place deep down inside each of us that only our soulmates can see?"
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton remained steadfast in her support of her embattled husband, praising him as a great leader who harbors great love for all the people of his nation, a love which it is his duty to share.
"As an internationally renowned feminist, I am firmly opposed to the objectification and use of women as mere sex objects. But this was more than just sex. It was a deep, abiding love, much like the kind my husband and I share in our deep, abiding, non-career-based marriage," she said.
According to legal experts, Clinton's avowal of his love for Lewinsky, though undeniably passionate and moving, may have been a shrewd attempt on the president's part to outmaneuver special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
"By shifting the focus of public discourse in this case from sex to love," Yale University law professor Laurence J. Timmins said, "Clinton and his lawyers are likely trying to redefine the terms of Starr's investigation, putting him in the unenviable position of having to prosecute the president for expressing the most sacred and beautiful of all human emotions."
"If Clinton can prove that he loved Lewinsky with a selfless and immortal love, the kind of all-consuming love that burns in your heart like a diamond flame and swells to crescendo with a mighty sound of trumpets, then Clinton's Jan. 17 deposition stating that he did not 'have sex' with Lewinsky will not be considered perjury," Timmins said. "The legal technicalities are tricky, but, basically, it comes down to the fact that anyone who has ever felt the full flush of true love beating in his breast, fluttering like the wings of a caged songbird, yearning for that exquisite moment of release, can tell you that sex and love are two very different things."
High-profile defense attorney Leslie Abramson agreed. "If Clinton's lawyers can establish an a priori 'I-thou' criteria here, I'd say he's home free," Abramson said.
In a CBS News poll taken shortly after the Clinton press conference, 67 percent of those polled said they believe Clinton is telling the truth.
"You can see it in his eyes," said Wanda Jackson, a La Crosse, WI, hairdresser. "Everything he said was so sweet, I just cried. Women understand these things in their hearts, and I know he wasn't lying. God, he's dreamy."
"I believe Clinton when he says it wasn't just about sex," said Georgette Reid of Jackson, MS. "These two people shared something very precious."
Clinton himself has refused to offer any additional comment on the issue, saying that the baseless charges against him are distracting from more important matters on the national agenda.
"We do not have any more time to waste on this lurid tabloid journalism," Clinton said. "I have to put this behind me and get on to the far more urgent task of running and loving this nation."