Clinton Admits To 'Wrong' Relationship With Lewinsky
President reverses earlier denial; asks the matter be ended
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 17) -- Breaking seven months of near silence, President Bill Clinton admitted Monday night that he did, in fact, have an inappropriate and "wrong" relationship with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but insisted he did nothing illegal. (512K wav sound)
"I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife," Clinton said, his voice breaking slightly. "I deeply regret that." (320K wav sound)
Clinton's four-minute address to the nation followed an afternoon of closed-door testimony for a federal grand jury looking into how Clinton answered questions about his relationship with Lewinsky in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case last January.
"While legally accurate, I did not volunteer information," Clinton said.
| Watch Clinton's speech in its entirety in: Real: Windows Media 28K | 56K or read a complete transcript|
| Clinton Deposition In Jones Case: 'I've Never Had An Affair With Her'|
"Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible," he said.
The president gave his televised address from the Map Room in the private residence of the White House, where he had faced prosecutors from Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office for more than four hours earlier in the day. During his testimony, sources tell CNN the president did admit to having sex with Lewinsky.
"But I told the grand jury today, and I say to you now, that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action," Clinton said.
In Clinton's public comments, the word "sex" was never spoken and the word "regret" was only used in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family over the last seven months about his relationship with the former White House intern.
Clinton explains honesty gap
The president's admission was a stunning reversal from his forceful, and now infamous, public statement last January when he said, "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me ... I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
Explaining his misleading public positions, the president said they were motivated by a desire to protect his family and "myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct."
Word that Clinton was changing his story began leaking out Sunday night, a development that was characterized by one family friend as "wrenching" for his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea.
The first lady did not appear with her husband during his speech, but did have a hand in crafting the speech, sources tell CNN. The president's personal attorney David Kendall was strongly involved.
The president began writing his speech Sunday night, and sources say that the original version was much more apologetic than the one delivered by the president.
'Even presidents have private lives'
As it is all but certain Starr will send a report to Capitol Hill, the president's fate will most probably land in the lap of Congress.
With that in mind, some of the president's comments seemed targeted at lawmakers, reminding them and the public that the Lewinsky investigation was prompted by what he described as the "politically inspired," and now dismissed, Jones case.
The president also had pointed words about Starr's four-year Whitewater investigation. "I had real and serious concerns about an independent counsel investigation that began with private business dealings 20 years ago, dealings I might add about which an independent federal agency found no evidence of any wrongdoing by me or my wife over two years ago," Clinton said.(480K wav sound)
Instead, the president urged the public -- and Congress -- to put the matter to rest and allow him to deal with his family and the work of the nation.
"Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most -- my wife and our daughter -- and our God. I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. Nothing is more important to me personally. (352K wav sound)
"But it is private, and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family. It's nobody's business but ours," Clinton said in the most direct and forceful declaration of the speech. "Even presidents have private lives.
"This has gone on too long, cost too much and hurt too many innocent
people," Clinton said.
President has way to go to heal the breach
Come Tuesday morning, the president will have more explaining to do to his closest friends and advisers.
Aides and supporters who have been standing by Clinton during the worst crisis of his presidency were said to be saddened, disappointed and in some cases feeling betrayed by the president's about-face.
But Vice President Al Gore was one of the first to make a public statement of support for his boss. While vacationing in Hawaii, Gore released a statement saying he was proud of the chief executive.
"Along with the rest of the country, I watched the president's televised address in which he took full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the nation," Gore said. "I'm proud of him -- not only because he is a friend -- but because he is a person who had the courage to acknowledge his mistakes.
"I am honored to work with this great president on his agenda to the nation, and I believe that it's time to put this matter behind us -- once and for all -- and move forward with the business of the United States of America," Gore said.
Meanwhile, the Clintons have decided to delay the family's departure for a 12-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard until Tuesday afternoon to give the president time to call friends and supporters to explain his actions, aides said.