POLITICS

Bill Clinton's bloody head, vicious fights, and other tales from the White House

04/08/2015 02:19 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 05:59 EDT
WASHINGTON - Bill Clinton's presidential sex scandal cost him more than an impeachment scare. According to a new book, it may also have cost him a quart of blood.

The book probes the fascinating memories of a few dozen White House employees dating back a half-century — cooks, florists, butlers, housekeepers — who share their recollections of first families from the Kennedys to the Obamas in, "The Residence: Inside The Private World Of The White House."

It devotes an entire chapter to the 1990s Monica Lewinsky affair. Many of the recollections come from on-the-record interviews with former staff.

But the goriest anecdote leans on anonymous sourcing.

"There was blood all over the president and the first lady's bed," is how the chapter titled, "Dark Days," begins. "A member of the residence staff got a frantic call from the maid who found the mess...

"The blood was Bill Clinton's. The president had to get several stitches to his head. He insisted that he'd hurt himself running into the bathroom door in the middle of the night. But not everyone was convinced.

"'We're pretty sure she clocked him with a book,' one worker said."

The book describes another fight where two butlers listened in, next to a closed door. She swore at him and they heard the crashing sound of an object — believed to be a lamp — flying across the room. The butlers were sent in to clean up the mess. The president apparently spent months sleeping on the sofa.

Then-White House florist Bob Scanlan is quoted describing the atmosphere during those dark days: "It was like a morgue."

Bill Clinton survived, politically. Polls suggest he still towers among other American political figures in public support. And the former first lady, then senator and secretary of state, is expected to launch a new bid within days for a return trip to the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The author, former Bloomberg White House reporter Kate Andersen Brower, interviewed three former first ladies for the book and several members of presidential families, but not the Clintons, who have not commented on its allegations.

Hillary did joke about the furniture-tossing story years ago when it appeared in gossip columns, telling Barbara Walters: "I have a pretty good arm. If I'd thrown a lamp at somebody, I think you would have known about it."

As she prepares her presidential campaign launch, Hillary Clinton's own poll numbers, while still strong, have taken a bit of a hit in the wake of a controversy over the private email system she used in cabinet.

The book suggests that there was a long-ago precedent for that email secrecy.

Brower interviewed staff who recalled the Clintons tinkering with the phone system in 1993. They had the system re-wired after the inauguration so that they could speak to each other from one room to another, without going through an operator.

The book describes the relationship with various presidential families.

It begins on a heartbreaking day: the Kennedy assassination. The doorman weeps in the elevator with Jackie and Bobby — and the widow gives him the tie JFK wore on the flight to Dallas.

Staff apparently loved the Bushes, having an extremely close relationship with the 41st and 43rd presidents. Ronald Reagan is described as good-natured, although his wife Nancy could be short-tempered.

The relationship with the Obamas is supposedly polite, cordial, not quite as warm as with the Bushes. But the shared cultural background between the first family and the mostly African-American staff has, apparently, made for bonding moments.

The butlers are described saying they never believed they'd live to serve a black president. One usher describes walking in, late on inauguration night, as the first couple shared a slow dance to a Mary J. Blige song.

Obama is quoted telling him: "I bet you haven't seen anything like this in this house, have you?"