In response to:
Anything Goes from the August 8, 1996 issue
To the Editors:
The London Sunday Telegraph has never reported that Vincent Foster shot himself in the White House parking lot.
In his “Clinton-Bashing” critique of August 8, Gene Lyons traduces an article I wrote for the Sunday Telegraph on April 9, 1995. The purpose of the piece was to explore evidence that the White House got an early tip-off about the death of Foster, at least an hour and a half before the official notification at 8:30 PM on July 20, 1993. The article did not examine the question of WHERE Foster died.
I reported that a White House aide, Helen Dickey, telephoned the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock very early on the night of Foster’s death at around 7 PM Eastern Time and allegedly said to an Arkansas state trooper: “Vince got off work, went out to his car in the parking lot and shot himself in the head.”
As it happens, this was similar to the wording of the Secret Service memorandum on the night of Foster’s death, which stated that the “US Park Police discovered the body of Vincent Foster in his car”—with the gun also in the car. In other words this was the first version circulating in the White House that evening—(later, of course, it emerged that Foster had been found in a Virginia park)—and Ms. Dickey had picked up a slightly garbled account and had repeated it.
The point I was trying to make was that the existence of the Secret Service memo lends credence to the Dickey story. But it should have been clear to anybody reading the Telegraph that the focus of our investigation was the timeline. Most of the text dealt with testimony from rescue workers at the crime scene who said that the Park Police found Foster’s White House ID before 6:37 PM—almost two hours before the White House was supposedly notified.
Lyons is also incorrect in stating that two state troopers, Larry Patterson and Roger Perry, refused to testify about the Dickey call in hearings before the Whitewater Committee of Senator Alfonse D’Amato. In fact they were eager to testify, though their lawyer had suggested that D’Amato obtain the telephone records first. It was D’Amato who decided not to call them to testify.
The Daily Telegraph (London)
Washington, D. C.
Gene Lyons replies:
I fear that Mr. Evans-Pritchard is indulging in a bit of intellectual foppery. Here’s what he wrote in his original April 9, 1995, story: “In an interview, he [Trooper Roger Perry] estimated the call at 5:15 PM—or 6:15 PM in Washington, D.C., very shortly after the Park Police first discovered the body….
“‘She was kind of hysterical, crying, real upset,’ said Perry. ‘She told me that Vince got off work, went out to his car in the parking lot, and shot himself in the head.’
“The wording is significant. It is very similar to the Secret Service memorandum on the night of the death which reported that the ‘US Park Police discovered the body of Vincent Foster in his car.’ The memorandum was wrong, of course. Or was it? When rescue workers and Park Police found the body after a telephone tip-off at 6:03 PM Foster’s corpse was deep inside a Virginia park. But the body-in-the-car version was the first one circulating in the White House that night…. [my italics]
“If the White House received an early warning about Foster’s death, why would it have been covered up?”
Evans-Pritchard’s insinuation could hardly be clearer. Unaware of the latest trends among Vince Foster conspiracy theorists, I can’t think why he now chooses to deny it. Republicans, it should be added, chose not to bring troopers Perry and Patterson before the Senate Whitewater committee after their attorney canceled two scheduled depositions. The senators no doubt recognized that the troopers’ twenty-month delay in “remembering” Helen Dickey’s call gave them a bit of a credibility problem. Danny Wattenberg, one of the American Spectator reporters on the original “Troopergate” story written five months after Foster’s suicide, has told me that Perry and Patterson never mentioned it to him.
There’s also a problem about Perry’s original time estimate. At 5:15 PM Park Police had been on the scene in Fort Marcy Park for only six minutes and hadn’t yet discovered Foster’s identity. Ms. Dickey has since testified that her call to the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion was made after 10:00 PM, and she was backed in this statement by other witnesses.