Inside Bill Clinton's secret affair with Monica Lewinsky as American Crime Story covers ex-president's scandalous fling
BILL Clinton’s affair with then 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky is in the spotlight once more as American Crime Story begins a new series about the ex-president’s scandalous fling.
Beanie Feldstein and Clive Owen take on the roles of Lewinsky and Clinton as the series delves further into the part played by Sarah Paulsen’s Linda Tripp in exposing the affair.
It also delves into the story of Paula Jones, who sued Clinton for sexual harassment.
Lewinsky became an infamous figure in the late-90s as she was featured in SNL skits and as the butt of the joke in many late-night talk-show hosts over the affair.
As Lewinsky said in a Ted Talk in 2015: "Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide. I was patient zero of losing a reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously."
She has said that the exposure left her feeling like the “most humiliated person in the world” after the affair almost brought down Clinton’s presidency.
Yet the 48-year-old has since emerged as an anti-bullying activist and spoken out about the way she was treated at the time, even contributing to the new series and being credited as a producer.
On August 6, Lewinsky spoke to Vanity Fair about the series, saying: “People have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades.
“In fact, it wasn’t until the past few years that I’ve been fully able to reclaim my narrative.”
Lewinsky reportedly pushed Impeachment's makers to include even her more scandalous actions in the new show, including a scene in which she flashed her thong to Clinton during a social event to get his attention.
"Listen, I would’ve loved to have been really selfish and said, ‘That’s great that you guys think we don’t have to show that, fantastic,’ but I’m incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story," she said.
"So, ultimately, I felt two things: One was that I shouldn’t get a pass because I’m a producer; and two, that it was unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable."
The Clinton-Lewinsky affair reportedly lasted for two years before it was made public in 1998 when Matt Drudge broke the story on his site the Drudge Report.
He leaked details of a phone conversation Tripp had recorded of Lewinsky venting about the affair after the young intern had confided in her co-worker.
Lewinsky began working in the White House as an intern in July 1995 in the office of President Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, before becoming an employee of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
She obtained the internship through a family friend and relocated to DC as a recent college graduate.
When the scandal broke, Clinton immediately denied the affair while Lewinsky was forced to hide from public attention in her mother's residence at the Watergate complex.
Clinton uttered the now infamous line "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” days later on January 26, 1998, during a televised White House news conference with wife Hillary standing alongside him.
"There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.”
DAMNING 'BLUE DRESS' EVIDENCE
Despite the former president’s denials, however, evidence of the affair was obtained by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Lewinsky was ambushed by the FBI in the Pentagon City mall and was interrogated in a hotel room.
"That was the most terrifying day of my life, which competes for the worst day with the release of the Starr report," she told The Irish Times.
During the investigation, Starr managed to acquire a blue dress from Lewinsky with Clinton's semen stain on it and testimony from her that the president had inserted a cigar into her vagina.
She said she didn’t notice the stained dress at the time but only realized it when she took it off afterward.
Tripp had persuaded Lewinsky not to wash the dress when they spoke about the affair and it became damning evidence.
In July 1998, Lewinsky received total witness immunity in exchange for a grand jury testament about her relationship with Clinton.
She and Clinton were eventually called before a grand jury that month; he testified via closed-circuit television, she in person.
In her testimony, Lewinsky stated that she had nine sexual encounters in the Oval Office with Clinton between November 1995 and March 1997.
She stated that the encounters involved oral sex and other sexual acts, but not sexual intercourse.
In August, Clinton caved under questioning from independent counsel Kenneth Starr before a federal grand jury and testified that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky
He branded the affair “a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”
On December 19, 1998, when Republicans had a House majority, the chamber voted largely along party lines to impeach Clinton on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice in connection with an extramarital affair
His impeachment trial began on January 7, 1999, but by February 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted him.
Hillary Clinton reportedly doesn’t feature prominently in the new series, after her decision to stay with Bill after the affair was widely covered in the press.
CLINTON SPEAKS OUT
As Lewinsky has sought to change the public commentary on herself in recent years, Clinton himself has spoken out about the affair in recent years, claiming that he had oral sex with the intern to ease his own “anxieties.”
Speaking in the Hulu documentary “Hillary” last year, he revealed the pair went through “painful” marriage counseling after his affair.
He also recalled the moment he told his wife “exactly what happened” and said he “felt terrible about it.”
“She said you have to tell your daughter. She said that's worse than me. So I did that, which was awful.”
When asked why he cheated, Clinton revealed the pressures of being inside the White House led him wanting a distraction.
He said: “You feel like you're staggering around, you've been in a 15 round prize fight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here's something that will take your mind off it for a while, that's what happens.
“Everybody's life has pressures and disappointments, terrors, fears of whatever.
“Things I did to manage my anxieties for years. I'm a different, totally different person than I was, a lot of that stuff 20 years ago.
“Maybe it's just getting older but I hope it was also going through a lot of this.
“But whatever, what I did was bad but it wasn't like – how can I think about the most stupid thing I could and do it.
“It's not a defense, it's an explanation. I feel awful.”
Lewinsky’s candor in retelling her story in Impeachment comes after difficult moments in the spotlight, including an event in Israel in 2018 when she walked off the stage over a question about Clinton.
“It is more important than ever for women to stand up for themselves and not allow others to control their narrative,” she said at the time, after claiming that she had previously set “clear parameters” for her appearance to talk about social media bullying and that the question was “off-limits”
Lewinsky had been asked whether she expected a personal private apology from Clinton over her experience.
“I’m so sorry, I’m not going to be able to do this,” Lewinsky said before dropping her mic and walking off stage.
Impeachment is the third story in the FX American Crime Story series.
It will be released on September 7.
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