Monica Lewinsky will probably go down in history as being the most well known White House intern, even if it was for unprofessional reasons. Lewinsky worked at the White House during the Clinton Administration in 1995 and 1996, but it was in 1998 when the news emerged of a sexual relationship between her and the President. This was the scandal that lead Clinton to become the second President to ever be impeached.
Lewinsky was a graduate of Lewis & Clark College, and was hired during Clinton’s first term. After forming a relationship with him, she told her friend (who worked in the Defense Department) Linda Tripp the details about her interactions with him – and Linda, being the friend she was, secretly taped every phone call with her. (That’s what friends do, right?)
Tripp delivered the tapes to Kenneth Starr, who served the Independent Counsel, when she learned that he was investigating Clinton on completely different matters. The tapes were handed over after Lewinsky submitted an affidavit for the Paula Jones case (Jones was attempting to sue Clinton for sexual harassment), stating that she didn’t have a physical relationship with him. She even tried to have Tripp lie under oath during this time.
Saturday Night Live, of course, had a heyday with the entire story between Lewinsky and Tripp.
According to the phone calls, Lewinsky claimed to have had sexual encounters with Bill Clinton on nine occasions from November 1995 to March 1997 – some even occurred while Hillary was in the White House as well. In 1996, Lewinsky was relocated to the Pentagon after some of her superiors felt like she was spending too much time with Clinton.
News of the scandal broke in January of 1998 on the Drudge Report, and the mainstream press picked it up a few days later. On January 26th, he spoke at a White House press conference next to Hilary, and forcefully denied the claims. You might have heard a line or two from this famous speech before:
In July of 1998, after months of tabloid press, Lewinsky was asked to give a grand jury testimony about her relationship with Clinton. It was then that Lewinsky gave the sole piece of evidence that contested Clinton’s earlier statement – a semen-stained blue dress, which gave adequate DNA evidence of her relationship. On August 17th, Clinton finally admitted that he had an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky, and gave a televised statement admitting that what he did was wrong.
This affected the Democratic party tremendously. In December, they were in the minority in both chambers of Congress, and many believed that Clinton’s inability to tell the truth were crimes of obstruction of justice and perjury. His personal approval ratings plummeted, and he caused a lot of issues that his party had to address during the next election (George W. Bush v. Al Gore, in 2000).
On March 3rd, 1999 Lewinsky was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20, and 70 million Americans tuned in. While Lewinsky was trying to promote her book, Monica’s Story – which was being released that same month – she hit a record for news show viewership. That same year, she tried to sell a line of handbags under the company name “The Real Monica, Inc.” More recently, she moved to London – since she got frustrated over never professionally escaping the history that her name created.
Clinton, however, is still a crowd-pleaser. Alongside Hillary and his daughter Chelsea, he continues to be part of Clinton Foundation, which works to improve global health and strengthen the economy.
How old were you when the Lewinsky scandal broke? Did you lose faith in Clinton as a President?
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