In November 1995, US President Bill Clinton infamously began an affair with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
For the next year and a half, America’s 42nd president would engage in a dozen sexual encounters with Lewinsky, most of which took place in the Oval Office.
And while the nation wouldn’t find out about President Clinton’s scandal until January 1998, White House staff “witnessed the fallout from the affair and the toll it took on Hillary Clinton,” explains Kate Brower, author of “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.”
“You just felt bad for the entire family and what they were going through,” White House maid Betty Finney told Brower. “You could feel the sadness.”
According to Brower, the president slept on a sofa on the second floor of the White House for three months during the height of the Lewinsky drama.
“Some on the staff have said that Hillary knew about Lewinsky long before it came out, and that what really upset her was not the affair itself but its discovery and the media feeding frenzy that followed,” Brower writes.
“It happened and she knew it happened and everybody was looking at her,” former White House storeroom manager Bill Hamilton said of the first lady.
White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier recalled that in the late afternoons, Hillary would call down and quietly ask for her favorite dessert, “Roland, can I have a mocha cake tonight?”
“I made many, many mocha cakes. You better believe it,” Mesnier told Brower.
Worthington White, a White House usher, described to Brower another encounter with the first lady during the dark days following the Lewinsky affair:
“One sunny weekend in August 1998, just before the president made his confession to the country, the first lady called Usher Worthington White with unusual request.
‘Worthington, I want to go to the pool but I don’t want to see anybody except you,’ she said.
‘Yes, ma’am, I understand,’ he replied sympathetically.”
White arranged for the Secret Service agents to abandon the protocol in which one agent would walk ahead of the first lady and another would walk behind her. Instead, they just trailed her.
White met Clinton, who was wearing reading glasses and carrying a few books, at the doors of a White House elevator and then escorted her to the pool – just as she had requested.
“They didn’t exchange a single word on the walk to the pool.
‘Ma’am, do you need any butler service?’ White asked her after she got settled in.
‘No,’ she responded.
‘You need anything at all?’
‘No, it’s just a beautiful day and I want to just sit here and enjoy some sunshine. I’ll call you when I’m ready to go back.'”
White then explained to the first lady that within an hour he would be heading home and therefore another staff member would come to escort her back to the White House.
“Clinton looked intently at him. ‘I’ll call you when I’m done.’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ White replied, knowing that that meant he would have to stay until whenever she chose to leave.
He didn’t get the call until nearly three-thirty that afternoon.
When he returned, White accompanied the first lady on another wordless walk from the pool to the second floor. Before she stepped off the elevator, the besieged first lady let him know how much his efforts meant to her.
‘She grabbed me by my hands and gave them a little squeeze and looked me directly in my eyes and just said, “Thank you.”‘
‘It touched my heart,’ White said of her gratitude. ‘It meant the world to me.'”
In January 1998, the public found out about President Bill Clinton’s affair. On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton for lying under oath and obstructing justice.