Bill Clinton said on Today that he did not feel that he owed Monica Lewinsky a personal apology
Bill Clinton may have “apologized to everybody in the world” following his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the 42nd president revealed in a new interview that he’s never said sorry directly to the former White House intern.
In a joint interview with his President Is Missing co-author James Patterson that aired Monday morning on Today, Clinton was asked if he would have handled the situation differently in light of the #MeToo movement and recent criticism that he should have resigned rather than fight his 1998 impeachment.
“I felt terrible then, and I came to grips with it,” the former president said.
Interviewer Craig Melvin asked if he ever directly apologized to Lewinsky.
“No, yes. And nobody believes that I got out of that for free,” Clinton replied. “I left the White House $16 million in debt. But you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this. And I bet you don’t even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me. They were not insensitive of that. I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the ’80s. I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were overrepresented in the attorney general’s office in the ’70s for their percentage of the bar. I’ve had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left. You are giving one side and omitting facts.”
When pressed, Clinton said he had not spoken to Lewinsky — and did not feel that he owed her a personal apology.
“I apologized to everybody in the world,” he said, adding, “No, I do, I, I, I do not. I’ve never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
Clinton said that had the scandal occurred today at the height of the #MeToo movement, he wouldn’t have handled it differently because he would have been exonerated by the truth.
“A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work. I think partly because they’re frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office and his voters don’t seem to care,” he said. “I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
Lewinsky, now 44, was 22 when she began her affair with Clinton. The young woman was thrust into the spotlight once their relationship was made public, and led to a high-profile investigation and the president’s impeachment. Lewinsky has said the surreal experience turned her life “into a living hell” and led to her being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a Vanity Fair essay published in February of this year, Lewinsky noted that since the dawn of the #MeToo era, her experience is finally being viewed through a different lens.
“Until recently (thank you, Harvey Weinstein), historians hadn’t really had the perspective to fully process and acknowledge that year of shame and spectacle,” she wrote in Vanity Fair, adding that even though what occurred between herself and Clinton wasn’t sexual assault, “we now recognize that it constituted a gross abuse of power.”
She also wrote, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”