White House communications director Hope Hicks reportedly acknowledged that she has had to tell white lies while working for President Donald Trump. But when are lies easily brushed off and when should they be raised to a level of national importance?
It’s not the first time we’ve grappled with these questions on a national level. This week we’re looking back at some lies President Bill Clinton told during grand jury testimony in 1998. He was ultimately impeached on charges of lying and obstruction but survived a trial in the Senate.
August 17, 1998 would go down as a pretty disastrous day for Clinton because independent counsel Ken Starr believed that Clinton was not 100% honest about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
First, the conduct
“Is oral sex performed on you within that definition as you understood it?” the President was asked.
“As I understood it, it was not, no,” Clinton responded, arguing he hadn’t had sexual relations.
The word “sex” is in the phrase “oral sex.” So it stands to reason that it is, in fact, included in the category of “sex.”
“That testimony is not credible. At the (Paula Jones) deposition, the President could not have believed he was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Starr said.
Second, the relationship
Clinton denied touching Lewinsky in intimate places. Lewinsky testified that Clinton had done so.
It should be noted that recently Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair that her concept of consent and the relationship has shifted.
“Just four years ago, in an essay for this magazine, I wrote the following: ‘Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.’ 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,” Lewinsky wrote.
Third, the timing
Even if Clinton had been telling the truth on the first two points, dates are hard to get around.
Lewinsky’s account placed the beginning of the affair during a time when she was still a White House intern. The President’s placed it during her time as a staffer.
What did we learn from Clinton’s testimony? Don’t have affairs. More importantly in this case: Don’t lie about your affairs – especially when you are on camera and under oath.
We don’t know what Hicks supposedly told white lies about. But if we learned anything from Clinton, it’s that lying at all can have consequences. (Perjury was one of the charges brought up against Clinton by the House.)