Former President Bill Clinton used the opening of a book tour event in New York on Monday to respond to a defensive interview he gave NBC News in which he defended his handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and said that he didn’t have to apologize to her.
Asked by author Walter Mosley about the response, Clinton said, “The truth is, the hubbub was I got hot under the collar because of the way the questions were asked. And I think what was lost were the two points that I made that are important to me.”
“The suggestion was that I never apologized for what caused all the trouble for me 20 years ago,” Clinton said. “First point is, I did. I meant it then, I meant it now. I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family and to the American people before a panel of ministers in the White House, which was widely reported. So I did that. I meant it then and I mean it today. I live with it all the time.”
Clinton added: “The second is that I support the Me Too movement and. Think it is long overdue, and I have always tried to support it in the decisions and policies that I advanced. Beyond that, I think it would be good if we could go on with the discussion.”
The former president had defended himself from recent criticism of his affair with Lewinsky in light of the #MeToo movement, telling NBC News in an interview that aired Monday that he never reached out to the former White House intern following the scandal.
Speaking to “Today,” Clinton defended his decision to remain in office following the scandal.
“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,” Clinton said, pointing to a series of sexual misconduct allegations against current President Donald Trump, who has denied them. “I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
Asked if he owed Lewinsky an apology, President Clinton told NBC’s Craig Melvin, “No, I do not – I have 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.”
In an essay for Vanity Fair published earlier this year, Lewinsky said she was questioning the narrative surrounding the affair, which played a central role in Clinton’s eventual impeachment.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of 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.”
Following the interview, Lewinsky spoke out on Twitter, sharing her Vanity Fair essay and writing that she was “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.”
Clinton publicly acknowledged at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1998 that he had “sinned.”
“I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine – first and most important, my family, also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people.”
As for his affair with Lewinksy, Clinton told NBC, “this was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me.”