September 28, 1999 – President Clinton bans reporter Paul Sperry from the White House after an impromptu interview on Chinagate

In Clinton Foundation Timeline, Email/Dossier Investigations, Featured Timeline Entries by Katie Weddington

(Timeline editor’s note: This entry takes us to the beginning of our timeline and still seems relevant today. Even in 1999, the media was unwilling to ask the Clintons tough questions and they were never held accountable for the Chinagate scandal. Our team appreciates Mr. Sperry’s  fearless spirit and continued coverage of the Clintons through the years.)

President Clinton bans Investor’s Business Daily reporter Paul Sperry from the White House after an impromptu interview on the Chinagate scandal during a picnic for the press on the South Lawn in 1999.


Paul Sperry wrote of his experience and his article was originally published as the cover story for WorldNet Magazine (later renamed Whistleblower) in February 2000:

(…) It was my turn to meet the celebrity president. As he approached me, I politely, if coolly, asked him when he would hold his next formal press conference. It had been several months since his last and he’s had fewer than any recent president. I admit I was trying to agitate the proper forum for questions about the FBI agents’ charges. But, to me, this was still a rather innocuous question, even within the supposedly neutral zone of a party. A relevant question, too, given the gathering. Other hard-nosed reporters surely were wondering when they’d get another crack at Clinton.

Or so I thought. My simple question was rewarded with boos and hisses from the adoring Clinton groupies around me. So much for the adversarial press.

But that was nothing compared with Clinton’s reaction to my inquiry about his next press confab. In an instant, his 100-watt charm shut off, replaced by a taunting belligerence. “Why?” he barked.

Bill Clinton spars with Paul Sperry at a White House picnic when asked about Chinagate. (Credit: Fox News)

“Because the American people have a lot of unanswered questions,” I replied, struggling to hold my bladder. At that point, he moved back down the rope, pulling up square in front of me, and demanded, “Like what?”

“Well, like illegal money from China and the campaign-finance scandal …”

What happened over the next 10 minutes was nothing short of a “scene.” The party-goers collapsed in around us. I watched the blood rush to Clinton’s gargantuan face as he launched into a tirade against ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, the FBI, Bob Dole and Republicans in general. All the while, he tried to belittle me by making faces (to get a rise out of his fans) and intimidate me by getting in my face.

And now I can see how he can do that to people. Clinton’s not just intellectually intimidating, he’s physically imposing. He’s tall (6-2) and big-boned.

Luckily, I’m the same height and was able to stand toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with him. I’ll never forget the maniacal look in his bloodshot eyes. There was a moment, fleeting, where I sensed he wanted to try to take a swipe at me. I was getting full frontal Clinton. His volcanic temper, hidden so well from the public by his handlers, erupted less than 12 inches from my eyes.

Clinton always is game for a debate. That I asked him hard questions at a party wasn’t what ticked him off. It’s what I asked him about. He clearly doesn’t want to talk about the mother of all scandals — Chinagate.

He also may have been thrown by my grasp of the facts. I’d been tracking the Beijing-tied Lippo Group’s influence in the Clinton White House since 1996 and have been suspicious of the probity of Attorney General Janet Reno’s special task force since she let John Keeney Sr. set it up — a month after the election — to look into Lippo’s influence.

Keeney’s son is none other than a defense attorney for John Huang, the former Lippo executive and convicted Clinton-Gore fund-raiser. Junior, who’s also a long-time Democratic National Committee lawyer, cut Huang a deal with daddy’s old task force that got him no jail time and immunity from prosecution for espionage.

Clinton also was unprepared for my tenacity. Other reporters may back down after he singes their eyebrows with a verbal fusillade. Dummy me, I hung in there for more abuse, challenging his answers, following up with more questions. Which only made him madder. (Read more: WND/Archive, 9/24/2000)