Two decades later and now amid the #MeToo movement, former President Bill Clinton said he does not plan on apologizing privately to Monica Lewinsky and defended how he handled the controversy in a heated interview that aired on NBC’s TODAY Show Monday.
“I apologized to everybody in the world,” Clinton said when asked if he apologized to Lewinsky over the scandal.
“I have not talked to her,” he added. “I 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.”
When asked if he felt he owed her an apology, Clinton said, “No, I do not.”
While in office, Clinton had at first denied his affair with Lewinsky, then a fresh-out-of-college White House intern, and later admitted to it with an apology. The era-defining scandal led to his impeachment trial, which resulted in his being acquitted. The controversy has resurfaced in recent years amid the presidential bid of President Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, and Lewinsky’s emergence as an anti-bullying advocate, speaker and writer. Recently, as The TODAY Show pointed out, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, said that Clinton should have resigned after the affair.
Clinton said he would not have changed how he handled the controversy and said he would not have resigned if the scandal were to have occurred in this new era. “I think I did the right thing,” he said. “I defended the Constitution.”
“Nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt,” he added later in the interview, then challenging the interviewer. “But you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this.”
Clinton’s comments come amid a national reckoning with sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Lewinsky recently wrote an essay published in Vanity Fair detailing power dynamics, the complexities of them and how she has interpreted her relationship with the former President in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a President and a White House intern,” she wrote. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
In the years since the scandal, Lewinsky has also detailed how, in the national spotlight, she was shamed and bullied by members of the media and the public at large. She wrote in the Vanity Fair piece that she has suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result.
For his part, Clinton told The TODAY Show the #MeToo movement is “way overdue.” “I think that it doesn’t mean I agree with everything,” he added. “I still have some questions about some of the decisions which have been made.”