Bill Clinton lashes out at NBC interviewer who was grilling him on the Monica Lewinsky scandal

Former President Bill Clinton.

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Former President Bill Clinton.
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Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

  • Former President Bill Clinton reacted defensively to questions concerning whether he would have responded differently to the scandal surrounding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in light of the #MeToo movement.
  • While Clinton called the movement against sexual harassment and assault “way overdue,” he defended his decision to remain in office after lying about his affair.
  • He also said he never personally apologized to Lewinsky.

Former President Bill Clinton reacted defensively to questions concerning whether he should have responded differently to the scandal surrounding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in light of the #MeToo movement.

When asked whether he thought differently about his relationship with Lewinsky, then a White House intern, amid the ongoing reckoning with sexual abuse, Clinton demurred.

“No, I felt terrible then,” he said. “And I came to grips with it.”

Clinton said the relitigation of the affair that led to his impeachment was unfair, and in part a result of frustration about the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct President Donald Trump faces.

“A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work,” Clinton told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview that aired Monday. “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. I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”

Last November, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat with deep ties to the Clintons, said Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Lewinsky. No other prominent elected Democrats agreed with Gillibrand publicly, and some saw it as a politically strategic way for the potential future presidential candidate to distance herself from the couple.

Clinton pushed back on Gillibrand’s assertion in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend.

“You have to really ignore what the context was,” Clinton said. “But, you know, she’s living in a different context. And she did it for different reasons. So I – but I just disagree with her.”

Earlier this year, Lewinsky wrote in an essay that the #MeToo movement had caused her to reexamine her relationship with Clinton through a new lens, and she concluded that the affair constituted a “gross abuse of power” on Clinton’s part.

“He was my boss,” she wrote. “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.”

Clinton told “Today” that he had never privately apologized to Lewinsky for the affair or its aftermath, but he noted that he apologized to her and her family publicly.

“I have never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry,” he said. “That’s very different. The apology was public.”

Clinton added that he paid a price – literally – for the affair, even though he remained in office.

“Nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt,” he added. “But you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this. And I bet you don’t even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me and they were not insensitive to that.”

He also defended his treatment of women in the workplace and argued that his critics and the media “omit” facts about his record.

“I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the ’80s,” he said. “I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were overrepresented in the attorney general’s office in the 70s for their percentage in the bar. I have had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left.”

While Clinton praised the movement against sexual harassment and assault, saying it was “way overdue,” he added “it doesn’t mean I agree with everything.”

“I still have some questions about some of the decisions which have been made,” Clinton said.