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Monday 15 October 2018

Bill Clinton bristles at questions on Lewinsky and MeToo movement

The former president disputed that he might owe Monica Lewinsky a private apology, insisting his public televised apology was adequate.

Bill Clinton during an interview about a novel he wrote with James Patterson (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
Bill Clinton during an interview about a novel he wrote with James Patterson (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

By Anne Flaherty, Associated Press

Former US president Bill Clinton has said the #MeToo movement is overdue, but dismissed questions about Monica Lewinsky.

In an interview with NBC’s Today Show, Mr Clinton bristled at questions over whether he should have resigned 20 years ago over his sexual relationship with the White House intern and whether the #MeToo movement has changed his perspective.

At the same time, the former Democratic president claimed credit for empowering women in his orbit and disputed that he might owe Ms Lewinsky a private apology, insisting his public televised apology was adequate.

Ms Lewinsky wrote in March that their relationship “was not sexual assault” but “constituted a gross abuse of power”.

“I dealt with it 20 years ago, plus,” said Mr Clinton.

“And the American people, two-thirds of them stayed with me.

I've tried to do a good job since then, and with my life and with my work. That's all I have to say Bill Clinton

“And I’ve tried to do a good job since then, and with my life and with my work. That’s all I have to say.”

Mr Clinton is promoting his new fictional thriller, The President Is Missing, with best-selling author James Patterson.

In clips released from the interview, Mr Clinton was at times both vague and combative in his answers, repeatedly blaming his critics and even the NBC interviewer for “omitting facts” by trying to lump him in with other men who have been accused of abusing their positions of power to leverage sexual relationships.

Mr Clinton said he was right not to resign.

And while he said he supports the #MeToo movement, “I still have questions about some of the decisions which have been made”.

Mr Clinton said he does not think President Donald Trump has got a free pass, but that Mr Trump’s alleged exploits have not “gotten anything like the coverage you would expect”.

Mr Trump has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women’s crotches.

On any parallels between the two presidents, Mr Clinton said: “A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work, I think partly because (Mr Trump’s supporters) are frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant in the Oval Office. And his donors don’t seem to care.”

On not resigning, Mr Clinton said: “I think I did the right thing. I defended the constitution.”

Mr Patterson joined Mr Clinton for the NBC interview, and seemed equally surprised that Mr Clinton would be asked about the Lewinsky scandal on his book tour.

At one point, Mr Patterson noted that other presidents, John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, were also suspected of having extramarital affairs and that it was in the past.

“It’s 20 years ago. Come on. Let’s talk about JFK. Let’s talk about, you know, LBJ. Stop it already,” Mr Patterson said.

In March, Ms Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair of Mr Clinton: “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. (Note to the trolls, both Democratic and Republican: none of the above excuses me for my responsibility for what happened. I meet Regret every day.)”

Press Association

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