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It has been seven months since NEW YORK TIMES columnist Anthony Lewis printed questions that White House aide Sidney Blumenthal said were posed to him before the Lewinsky grand jury.

Questions, it would later be revealed, that were never asked!

In his June 29, 1998 column -- slugged "Questions that Degrade" -- Lewis wrote:

"Sidney Blumenthal, assistant to the President, made his third appearance before Kenneth Starr's grand jury in Washington last Thursday... Mr. Blumenthal decided to tell me about the experience, as a grand-jury witness may do... Prosecutors asked Mr. Blumenthal to leave the room so they could consult. After five minutes he was called back, and Mr. Wisenberg asked him: 'Does the President's religion include sexual intercourse?'"

But according to transcripts of Blumenthal's grand jury testimony, released four months after the NEW YORK TIMES column ran, that question was never asked by prosecutors!

Lewis continued: "There was another sexual question in last week's grand-jury session, conducted by two new prosecutors. It was, 'Does the President believe that oral sex is sex?' It was just that -- a general question not tied to any particular matter."

No. It was a general question not tied to any particular reality. Another question that prosecutors never asked!

Lewis summarized: "What we have here, I think, is third-rate prosecutors full of hubris and obsessed by sex... It is sneering, smart-aleck stuff, the tone of Clinton-haters on cable television and the Internet."

The NEW YORK TIMES even worked some of the phony questions into its news copy.

"In two recent visits to the grand jury, Mr. Blumenthal said, he was asked, 'Does the President believe that oral sex is sex?' and 'Does the President's religion include sexual intercourse?'" -- JAMES BENNET's "The Titillating, Zigzagging Focus on Sex at 1600" June 30, 1998, Section A; Page 17.

Seven months later, Bennet still has not informed his readers that Blumenthal's statements were false.

And columnist Lewis has never straightened up his mess for the "newspaper of record."

NEW YORK TIMES executive editor Joseph Lelyveld could not be reached for comment.

A Starr associate explains that the Office of the Independent Counsel could not alert the media at the time of the smear due to restrictions covering grand jury secrecy.

But the grand jury foreperson personally lectured Blumenthal during the closing moments of the session last summer:

"We are very concerned about the fact that during your last visit that an inaccurate representation of the events that happened were retold on the steps of the courthouse."

"I appreciate your statement," Blumenthal responded.

"If Ken Starr is interested in the truth, he heard it today," Blumenthal told reporters just moments later.

Sidney Blumenthal, still employed at the White House, is scheduled to be a witness in the Clinton impeachment trial on Wednesday.

Will reporters print his version of the secret Senate questioning?

Or wait for the videotape.

Reports are moved when circumstances warrant
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