More than 20 years after the Monica Lewinsky scandal rocked the Oval Office, former President Bill Clinton says he believes he handled the situation appropriately and would not change how he approached the fallout.
In a new interview with NBC News, Clinton told correspondent Craig Melvin “if the facts were the same, I wouldn’t [resign],” adding that while he publicly apologized to Lewinsky several times, he never offered a private one.
The renewed focus on Clinton and Lewinsky comes amid the #MeToo movement and continuing allegations of sexual misconduct by President Donald Trump. Clinton, though, says he believes there’s a bit of revisionist history going on as the topic is resurrected.
“Don’t we have a right to change the rules? Yes. But you don’t have the right to change the facts,” he said. “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. I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
Clinton, in 1998, initially denied having an affair with Lewinsky, who was then a White House intern. The scandal ultimately resulted in Clinton being impeached, only the second president to face that fate.
Lewinsky has since gone on to become an advocate for safer social media environments and recently penned an op-ed looking at the consensual affair through the eye of #MeToo, saying the movement had given her a “new lens” with which to examine it.
An obviously guarded Clinton sat with arms and legs folded as Melvin questioned him, later seeming to imply that he was sufficiently penalized for the incident–and noting that despite the controversy, Americans sided with him.
“Nobody believes I got out of that for free,” he says, noting his $16 million of debt when he left the White House. “This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me.”