Hitchens v. Blumenthal

The Sunday papers will probably give the big headlines to Monica Lewinsky, who for the first time today was seen talking. (Before today, we’d seen her, and we’d heard her talking on the released Linda Tripp tapes, but we hadn’t seen her and heard her simultaneously.) The day’s most interesting Flytrap development, however, was that Christopher Hitchens, who is Clinton’s most enthusiastic and visible critic from the left, issued an affidavit that appears to put Sidney Blumenthal in some danger of being prosecuted for perjury.

Here is what Blumenthal said Feb. 3 in his Senate testimony (excerpts of which were made public this week):

Q. So, when you talk to your mother and your friends and [Gene] Lyons about Ms. Lewinsky, are you telling us that you have these conversations, and you know what the President has told you and you’re not tempted to tell somebody the President is a victim of this lady, out of his own mouth?A. Not only am I not tempted, I did not.

Here is what Hitchens said in his affidavit yesterday (Feb. 5):

“During lunch on March 19, 1998, in the presence of myself and Carol Blue, Mr. Blumenthal stated that, Monica Lewinsky had been a ‘stalker’ and that the President was ‘the victim’ of a predatory and unstable sexually demanding young woman. Referring to Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Blumenthal used the word ‘stalker’ several times. Mr. Blumenthal advised us that this version of the facts was not generally understood.”

Hitchens is a political journalist (for Vanity Fair, The Nation, and Salon–though the Salon pieces are generally recycled Nation columns). It may be that Blumenthal will now assert that he and Hitchens are not “friends,” but rather professional colleagues. (Blumenthal is an ex-journalist, and has clearly had some dealings with Hitchens as a source; Hitchens, in his affidavit, says he and Blumenthal are “social friends and journalistic acquaintances.”) Chatterbox, who knows them both (neither well), had long been under the impression they were rather good friends, but suspects this will not obtain in the future. Meanwhile, the additional legal, journalistic, moral, and gossip implications of all this must await Chatterbox’s efforts to round up more information.

–Timothy Noah