By SAM ROBERTS DEC. 14, 2015, New York Times
Image from article, with caption: Evelyn Lieberman in 1991
Evelyn Lieberman, who as the first woman to serve as deputy chief of staff to a
president grew concerned about the behavior of the junior aide Monica S.
Lewinsky around Bill Clinton and banished her to a job outside the White
House, died on Saturday in Washington. She was 71.
Her husband, Edward, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
A Brooklyn-born former teacher, Ms. Lieberman also directed the Voice of
America and was the first person to serve as under secretary of state for public
diplomacy and public affairs.
“Evelyn,” President Clinton said at her swearing-in at the Voice of
America in late 1996, “has a special talent for cutting to the chase and getting
The House of Representatives impeached Mr. Clinton in 1998 on the
grounds that he had lied under oath about his sexual relationship with Ms.
Lewinsky, who was in her early 20s when she worked at the White House. The
Senate voted not to convict.
In April 1996, some months after the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship had
begun but nearly two years before the scandal broke, Ms. Lieberman, then
deputy for operations to the chief of staff, Leon E. Panetta, transferred Ms.
Lewinsky, a onetime intern, to the Pentagon from her job in the White House
Office of Legislative Affairs.
According to the report issued by Kenneth W. Starr, the independent
counsel in the case, Ms. Lieberman testified before a special grand jury on Jan.
30, 1998, that Ms. Lewinsky had displayed “immature and inappropriate
behavior,” was “spending too much time around the West Wing,” and was
“always someplace she shouldn’t be.”
“I decided to get rid of her” because of “the appearance that it was
creating,” the Starr report quoted Ms. Lieberman as saying.
She said she had heard no rumors linking the president and Ms.
Lewinsky, but acknowledged that Mr. Clinton “was vulnerable to these kind of
rumors” and that this vulnerability was a reason for the transfer.
After testifying, Ms. Lieberman said publicly: “I want to make one point
clear. I know of no improper relationship between the president, Monica
Lewinsky or anyone else, for that matter.”
Ms. Lieberman testified to the Starr grand jury that after she transferred
Ms. Lewinsky, she had a conversation with Mr. Clinton in which he said he
had received a phone call about “an intern you fired.”
“She was evidently very upset about it,” Ms. Lieberman recalled. “He said,
‘Do you know anything about this?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Who fired her?’ I
said, ‘I did.’ And he said, ‘Oh, O.K.’ ”
Marcia Lewis, Ms. Lewinsky’s mother, said she had also confronted Ms.
Lieberman about the transfer. She testified that Ms. Lieberman had responded
by “saying something about Monica being cursed because she’s so beautiful.”
She said she had surmised that Ms. Lieberman “would want to have pretty
women moved out” to protect the president.
Evelyn Lieberman was born Evelyn May Simonowitz on July 9, 1944, the
daughter of Jack Simonowitz and the former Rose Cohen. Her parents
separated when she was a child.
She graduated from Buffalo State College, part of the State University of
New York, with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1966, taught on Long
Island, and moved with her first husband to Washington. They divorced.
In addition to her second husband, she is survived by a brother, Haskel
Ms. Lieberman had a long résumé in and out of government. Besides
serving as deputy chief of staff under Mr. Clinton, she was public affairs
director for the National Urban Coalition and the Children’s Defense Fund,
where she met Hillary Clinton, a board member; press secretary to Joseph R.
Biden Jr., now the vice president, when he was a senator from Delaware;
assistant to Mrs. Clinton’s White House chief of staff; chief operating officer of
Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; and, most recently, chief
spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution.
In an interview with the Buffalo State alumni magazine last winter, Ms.
Lieberman described her work with the Children’s Defense Fund and its
founder, Marian Wright Edelman, as transformative.
“Here’s this poor girl from Brooklyn who has had extraordinary
opportunities and great encouragement from others,” Ms. Lieberman recalled.
“And I believe it’s my responsibility to provide that same encouragement to
others, especially young women. Marian Edelman said that ‘service is the rent
we pay for living.’ I think that says it all.”