Willey Charges: White House Treads Carefully

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WASHINGTON: Call it a delicate spin cycle. Never before has the Clinton administration had to respond to sexual harassment allegations from a woman like Kathleen Willey: a Democrat; a former supporter; a woman with nothing to gain financially. This is a different kind of accuser, and the White House offered a different kind of rebuttal. Without comment, Clinton attorneys released a series of 15 Willey letters that said it all: "Take heart in knowing that your No. 1 fan thinks of you every day," she wrote to the President -- a whole year after the alleged incident took place.

Special Report "We're not going to indulge in name-calling," said a wary-looking Mike McCurry, giving his most trepid press briefing since the last week in January -- back when Monica Lewinsky became a household name. Unlike then, there was no angry statement from the President. His denials had already been made in a sworn deposition. Rather than jabbing his finger at the camera, Clinton declared himself "mystified and disappointed by this turn of events."

Another change from January: The GOP leadership are daring to talk about this scandal openly. "I found her credible," opined Trent Lott. "I watched the body English and listened to what she had to say." If that kind of talk continues in Congress, Clinton may have to go to the next stage of denial: Ignore it and act Presidential. And with trips to Africa, China and England coming up over the next few months, he'll have plenty of opportunity to do just that.