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Brouhaha Over Hillary Leaks

The publisher of Sen. Hillary Clinton's highly anticipated new memoir is threatening a lawsuit over pre-publication excerpts from a leaked copy of the book quoted by the Associated Press.

The publisher, Simon & Schuster, had carefully withheld details about Clinton's book, "Living History," in order to set up a media campaign to promote the book when it hits bookstores next week. (Simon & Schuster and are both owned by Viacom.)

The AP ran passages Wednesday describing, among other things, Clinton's pain upon learning of her husband's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Numerous other media outlets then picked up the story from the AP.

Simon & Schuster, in a letter to the AP, objected to the AP's report on the book, claiming that it amounted to copyright infringement.

In response to the leaks, Time magazine was said to be renegotiating – and even considering canceling – a deal it had made with Simon & Schuster to run the first excerpts from the book, the New York Times reports. And ABC News, which is scheduled to air the first TV interview with Clinton about the book, showed parts of that conversation last night in advance of its Sunday night broadcast.

David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, told the Times the company was "looking at all options," including legal action against the AP for running the excerpts. "We believe we have the right to control the book and the information within it and we don't look kindly on unauthorized use of the materials," Rosenthal is quoted as saying.

David Tomlin, assistant to the AP president, said: "Representatives of Simon & Schuster have been in touch with us. We disagree completely with their legal conclusions concerning our story."

There is a legal precedent for this sort of lawsuit. The Supreme Court found The Nation Magazine liable for $12,500 in 1985 for publishing unauthorized pre-publication excerpts from a memoir by former President Gerald R. Ford. The first excerpt rights in that instance had also been sold to Time magazine.

Clinton's 562-page book has generated keen interest. Expecting large sales, Simon & Schuster ordered an extraordinary first printing of 1 million copies.

The first lady-turned-senator was paid a $2.85 million advance toward the $8 million book deal. Foreign rights already have been sold in 16 countries. The book's list price is $28.

Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising at Barnes & Noble, said Simon & Schuster has no reason to worry and that the leaks would only increase the public's curiosity. "We expect this to be the biggest nonfiction book for 2003," Wietrak told the Times.

In the book:

  • Clinton takes some responsibility for "botching" health care reform and not being sensitive enough to people who thought she should be a traditional first lady. "I knew people were saying, 'This is Hillary's fault. She blew it with health care and lost us the election,'" she writes.
  • Clinton says that after her husband finally confessed to a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, after denying it, "I didn't know whether our marriage could — or should — survive such a stinging betrayal. ... This was the most devastating, shocking and hurtful experience of my life."
  • She wrestles with the question of why Foster killed himself when he did not seem out of sorts. She says that as she learned more about clinical depression, "I began to understand that Vince may have appeared happy because the idea of dying gave him a sense of peace."
  • Of her description of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" dogging her and her husband, she says she might have phrased her point more artfully. But she stands by its essence, as it related to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation. "I do believe there was, and still is, an interlocking network of groups and individuals who want to turn the clock back on many of the advances our country has made," she says.