It's not clear whether Betty Currie was motivated by loyalty or fear. But, as President Clinton's personal secretary, she got caught in the middle, covering for his Oval Office affairs.CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman reports.
None of that is surprising to Betty Cox. She spent 20 years working as an executive secretary in the corporate world. In her years, she's been asked to sign the boss' name on checks, juggle girlfriends, and lie to wives.
"He's in charge. You're told to make him happy. Make his life very comfortable, doing exactly what you re told. Don't ask questions," says Cox.
Currie is not the first secretary in high places to find herself compromised. Remember Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon's personal secretary who inadvertently erased 18 minutes of a crucial Watergate tape. Or Fawn Hall, the secretary who shredded documents for her boss, Oliver North.
Not every secretary is asked to go that far. But it seems most are asked to bend the truth. A survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals found that more than 80 percent had told a little white lie for a boss, and almost 60 percent had lied about a boss' whereabouts.
"One of the worst things a person can do is put people in a situation where they have to make a choice between their ethics and their livelihood or their career," says Mike Hoffman, Professor of Business Ethics, Bentley College, Waltham, Mass.
Cox says the best way to avoid the ethical squeeze is to address it before any problems arise. But if it's too late for that, she says, diplomatically but directly tell the boss that you are uncomfortable.
"You do have the right to be able to tell him, 'Look. This is not wise. You're going to get in trouble for this. Let's back off'," she adds.
Many large corporations now have ethics officers who employees can turn to. But it is not as clear who you turn to if your desk is outside the Oval Office.