HLN, which was formerly known as ‘Headline News’, is a cable TV network spun off CNN by Turner Broadcasting. Today the network broadcasts a mixture of traditional news and real crime stories.
In a recent announcement, HLN said that they would revisit what it called “The Monica Lewinsky Scandal” with a two-hour special program.
Many readers may be too young to know who she is, and those who do may have forgotten all but her name. Let’s do a quick review of exactly why Monica Lewinsky became such a public figure, along with a little background as to how she got into such a sensitive position.
In 1995, Lewinsky graduated with a degree in psychology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. That summer, family friend Walter Kaye, an insurance big wig who was also friends with Hillary Clinton, helped her land an unpaid internship in Washington, D.C. in the office of White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.
Per Jeff Leen of the Washington Post back in 2008, one of Lewinsky’s fellow interns that summer painted her as extroverted, hard-working and ambitious. In the coming months there would be rumors, some started by her own comments, that she had somehow developed an uncommonly close relationship with President Bill Clinton.
By December, Lewinsky had been moved to a paid intern position with the Office of Legislative Affairs. She would later confide in a friend, Linda Tripp, that she had begun an affair with the President a month earlier.
Per a USA Today article in 2008, Lewinsky had her first sexual encounter with Clinton in the private study of the Oval office on November 15, 1995. The two repeated this Oval office tryst under similar circumstances just two days later.
This was the beginning of a physical relationship that lasted approximately a year and a half. There would be, according to Lewinsky, a total of nine sexual encounters between the two. There was never sexual intercourse, but fellatio and other sex acts were involved.
Described by some on staff as a bit forward, and by others as outright flirtatious, Lewinsky was moved in April 1996 into a position as assistant to the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Kenneth Bacon. The move came because some of her superiors felt that she had grown too close to the President.
Lewinsky also had a reputation as a hard worker who was willing to genuinely put in long hours. She seems to have been an enigma. While exhibiting drive and determination, she also came across as distracted at times, with a fairly obvious crush on the President.
During a February 1997 liaison, Clinton purportedly left stains on Lewinsky’s dress during one of their encounters. The revelation that the dark blue dress had been preserved with this “evidence” would later became a part of the public lore involving their relationship. A month later, the two had their final dalliance with one another.
It was in September of 1997 that Lewinsky began to confide in Tripp, who then began to secretly record their conversations. By January 1998, the affair broke through as a public news story. Clinton famously responded “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” in a news conference on national television.
Over the next few months, Clinton faced increased scrutiny involving the affair and his involvement in the Whitewater real estate controversy. He finally admitted under pressure from Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel on Whitewater, that “I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.”
In December 1998, two articles of impeachment were brought against Clinton by the U.S. House of Representatives. Charges of perjury and obstruction of justice were leveled against him involving a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by Paula Jones. This was in relation to an incident that occurred while he was the Governor of Arkansas in 1991.
Both Clinton and Lewinsky were called to testify at the Jones lawsuit proceedings. Clinton lied under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky, spurring the impeachment charges. He was acquitted on both charges in a Senate trial along party-line votes. He would settle out-of-court with Jones.
Over the next couple of years, Lewinsky would hit the cover of Time magazine, be interviewed on TV by Barbara Walters, appear twice on “Saturday Night Live”, and participate in the publishing of her biography.
The problem with the labeling and marketing of this upcoming HLN program is the same as has always been the case with this story. It is always presented as the “Lewinsky scandal”, when in fact the more appropriate truth is that it was the “Clinton” scandal.
Bill Clinton was the President of the United States. He was the most powerful man in the world. Monica Lewinsky was a 22-year old young woman ostensibly working as his employee.
That’s not to take any responsibility away from her. She was certainly old enough to know that what she was doing was wrong. But the true scandal is certainly more appropriately laid at the feet of the then 49-year old leader of the free world.
Lewinsky, now 44 years old and one of the nation’s leading anti-bullying social activists, was quick to cleverly strike back on social media at what she felt was this inappropriate labeling and marketing by the HLN folks.
fixed it for you. you’re welcome. pic.twitter.com/h4iVKGwM1g
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) November 28, 2017
There has been plenty of scandal involving Bill and Hillary Clinton over the last few decades. Monica Lewinsky’s involvement is just one chapter. But it is a chapter that lingers with those of us who lived through those years. It’s important that we keep Monica’s reminder front and center.
While she was a young woman who made a mistake in judgment, he was the President of the United States. And he later compounded those errors in his judgment by lying about them under oath in a formal court proceeding. Those actions of Clinton’s are the true scandal in this story.