By Lily Rothman
January 26, 2015

It was on this day in 1998 that President Bill Clinton (as seen around 6:18 in the video above) uttered 11 words that would go down in history: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”

Though the definition of “sexual relations” — and other phrases — may be questioned, even in hindsight, Clinton did eventually end up admitting to an affair.

So why did he say those 11 words in the first place?

One possible explanation can be found in the Feb. 9, 1998, TIME special report that explored the impact of that speech:

Read more about the semantics of the statement, here in the TIME Vault: When Is Sex Not ‘Sexual Relations’?

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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