The #MeToo movement did more than just shine a light on some particularly heinous bad men, it made space for investigating and interrogating the power imbalances that may blur the line of consent. One of the most infamous cases that highlights the need for these conversations is the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal—etched forever in our country’s history with the phrase “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
The year is 2018, and we obviously know Bill had sexual relations with that woman. But it wasn’t just this fact that made the former president uncomfortable during an interview with the Today show. As Jezebel points out, it was NBC News anchor Craig Melvin’s questions about whether or not the #MeToo movement changed the way he sees his affair with the 22-year-old intern that agitated the 71-year-old.
Unsurprisingly, the #MeToo movement changed little for Bill. “Well, I don’t think it would be an issue. Because people would be using the facts instead of the imagined facts. If the facts were the same today, I wouldn’t,” Clinton said during the interview.
Clinton tried to deflect the conversation by bringing up Donald Trump’s many sexual assault and harassment accusations, but Clinton himself was also accused by multiple women of assault and harassment.
In March, Lewinsky penned an essay for Vanity Fair where she detailed the power imbalance that influenced her relationship with the president. “He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college,” she wrote.
“Looking back on what happened then, through the lens of #MeToo now, do you think differently? Or feel more responsibility?” Melvin asked.
“No, I felt terrible then, and I came to grips with it ... Nobody believes that I got out of that for free,” said Clinton. “I left the White House $16 million in debt.”
“This was litigated 20 years ago, two-thirds of the American people sided with me,” he continued. “They were not insensitive to that. I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the eighties. I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were overrepresented in the attorney’s general office in the ‘70s. I’ve had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left. You’re giving one side and omitting facts.”
Melvin later asks if Clinton had ever apologized to Lewinsky, but the former president only referred to his public television apology from 1998. He has never apologized to Lewinsky privately.
When asked about a private apology, Clinton went off. “Do you think JFK should have resigned? Do you believe President Johnson should have resigned? Someone should ask you these questions because of the way you formulate the questions. I dealt with it 20 years ago, plus, and the American people, two-thirds of them, stayed with me. And I tried to do a good job since then with my life and with my work. That’s all I have to say.”