Former President Bill Clinton said his defensive comments about the #MeToo movement and his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky “wasn’t my finest hour.”
Though Clinton faulted NBC – “they had to distill” the interview, he said – he said that when he saw the piece that ran on Monday morning he “was mad at me.”
“They had to distill it and it looked like it said I didn’t apologize and had no intention to, and I was mad at me,” Clinton said Tuesday. “Here is what I want to say, it wasn’t my finest hour.”
He added: “But the important thing is that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago and I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people. I meant it then; I meant it now. I have had to live with the consequences every day since.”
Clinton’s comments to talk show host Stephen Colbert were a marked departure from his interview with NBC on Monday, where he defended himself from recent criticism of his 1995 affair with Lewinsky in light of the national conversation about sexual harassment and workplace conduct by powerful men.
“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 told NBC, pointing to a series of sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump, who has denied them. “I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
Asked by NBC whether he owed Lewinsky an apology, Clinton said, “No, I do not.”
Later on Monday, after an uproar from Democrats and Republicans alike, Clinton noted he had apologized “to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family and to the American people” during the 1998 National Prayer Breakfast.
All the recent comments came amid Clinton’s book tour with author James Patterson, who co-authored “The President Is Missing” with the former president.
Lewinsky, following years in relative hiding after she became a national fascination for her affair with Clinton, re-emerged into the national conversation in 2014 as a contributing writer for Vanity Fair. In an essay for the magazine 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.”
Lewinsky has not directly responded to the recent hubbub over Clinton’s answers, but she did tweet on Monday that she was “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.”
Clinton’s defensive response on Monday was confirmation to many national and state-based Democrats who were concerned about how the former president would fare campaigning for Democrats amid the #MeToo movement.
“Now campaigns have answered the question about how he is going to answer those questions,” one top Democrat said, “and you just can’t risk that.”