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What Does Monica's Voice Say?

The final bit of mystery surrounding Monica Lewsinksy was lifted on Nov. 17, 1998, when the House Judiciary Committee released secretly recorded tapes of Lewinsky's telephone chats with Linda Tripp.

Despite all that was known about the former White House intern, this was the first time the public had heard her voice. The 37 tapes contained 22 hours of conversations with Lewinsky about her relationship with the president.

Before the tapes' release, Lewinsky's story had been told by others or printed in stacks of documents collected by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Absent in the mass of embarrassing details about Lewinsky's life and tastes was the sound of her own voice.


CLICK HERE to listen to the tapes.

In the content of the tapes, there was nothing new. The transcripts were made available months before. But Lewinsky's voice had remained a mystery, and hearing it for the first time did paint a clearer picture of the woman who carried on an Oval Office affair with the president.
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CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson points out that Lewinsky sounds very young on the recordings. Her voice is at times playful and enthusiastic.

Tripp, on the other hand, leads Lewinsky and encourages her to discuss the affair with the president.

In one exchange where Tripp expresses concern for Lewinsky but continues to tape the conversation, she sounds particularly cynical, saying "I know you want to protect [the president]. Of course, I know that. I just don't want you to be savaged in the process."

In another excerpt, Lewinsky sobs uncontrollably about the outcome of her relationship with President Clinton.

But did the airing of the tapes have any significant impact on the presidential impeachment inquiry in the House?

Ira Teinowitz, the Washington bureau chief for Advertising Age magazine doubts the often-smutty tapes offer much more than novelty value. "Certainly sponsors might have some questions about it," he said.

Hearing Lewinsky's voice may not have changed public opinion about the larger questions raised by her relationship with Mr. Clinton. But it perhaps made her a more sympathetc figure, said Georgetown University linguistics professor Deborah Tannen.

"The horror of having a private conversation made public is something everybody reacts to in a gut way," Tannen said. "We probably feel that our voices are who we are more than almost any other aspect of ourselves."

Tripp gave the tapes to prosecutors in January, triggering the investigation now headed for impeachment hearings began.

Edited transcripts of the Tripp tapes were released Oct. 2. Lewinsky's thoughts, hopes, insecurities, and jealousies also are laid bare in email, the observations of others, and in her own grand jury testimony - all in Starr's report to Congress.

Most people reading Lewinsky's words probably accent them according to their own interpretation of her role in the affair, Tannen said. "I suppose people who see her as a victim will be expecting a little girl, and people who see her as a vamp and a seductress will be expecting Marilyn Monroe."

Lewinsky offered her own ironic summation as she discussed recording an entreaty to Mr. Clinton for "a nice little visit." She thought the taped message might work better than her notes to the president.

"There is nothing that beats the voice, you know," Lewinsky told her friend. Tripp's tape was already rolling.

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