Linda Tripp, who as a confidant of Washington intern Monica Lewinsky became one of the highest-profile whistleblowers in recent political history, made a rare appearance Monday to describe what it was like to call out an American president.
"A whistleblower armed with the truth wields enormous pressure on wrongdoings and folks who believe that they have a way to do whatever it is they want to do," Tripp said. "But it all comes at an enormous price for the whistleblower."
Tripp came forward Monday to mark National Whistleblower Day and used the spotlight to highlight what she said was the important role whistleblowers play in a democratic society. She called for more support to protect those who shed light on wrongdoing.
Tripp was a mid-level federal employee who rocketed to national prominence in 1998 after she shared with Independent Counsel Ken Starr details about conversations she had with Lewinsky about her affair with then-President Clinton that started when Lewinsky was a White House intern. Tripp, a former White House staffer in the George H. W. Bush administration had been transferred to Pentagon during the Clinton administration, and Tripp became friends with Lewinsky after she was got a job at the Pentagon as well.
Tripp's secretly-recorded conversations with Lewinsky directly contradicted statements Clinton had made in a sworn deposition denying the existence of the relationship and sparked his impeachment and trial on multiple counts of perjury and abuse of power.
The expose on the sitting Democratic president by a Republican employee sparked a fierce political backlash, including the White House and the Pentagon's counter-attacks targeting Tripp that included leaked information about her personnel and security clearance records.
Tripp recalled during the speech how the quickly the scandal was politicized and how she was personally vilified, ridiculed and humiliated for her expose on one of the most powerful figures in the world at that time.
"I don't even know how to quantify this, but it's a feeling of sheer loneliness, a feeling of an utter sense of isolation," Tripp said.
Tripp filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense under the Privacy Act and eventually settled for more than $595,000.
Despite the hardships she went through, Tripp said her only regret is not acting sooner out of fear.
"To those out there who say I did this for personal gain, I say, standing here 20 years later," Tripp said. "What did I stand to gain then or now? I stood to lose everything, and in fact, I did. And yet, if I had to do it all over again, I would."