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The true story of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal

·5 min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. After the teaser trailer for Impeachment: American Crime Story dropped last month, we've been patiently waiting for the show itself to air – and finally, the wait is nearly over (we think). The show is set to air in the US on 7 September, meaning hopefully a UK date isn't too far behind...

Back in 2019, it was announced that the third season of the Emmy-winning Ryan Murphy series would be focusing on the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair that dominated headlines in the 90s.

Based on Jeffrey Toobin's 2000 book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, the series will dive into the true story of Clinton and Lewinsky. The best part? Lewinsky herself will serve as an executive producer on the series, which represents a long-overdue chance for her to tell her own story.

Unfamiliar with the sex scandal that shook the US? Here’s the TL;DR version of the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal...

What was the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal?

Back in the summer of 1995, a 21-year-old Monica Lewinsky obtained a position as a White House intern through a family friend and relocated to Washington DC. Within a few months, she embarked on an affair with then-President Bill Clinton, who was very much married to Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Clintons share a daughter, Chelsea, too.

A year on, Lewinsky confided about her relationship with Clinton to a co-worker, Linda Tripp, who - twelve months on from that, in the autumn of 1997 - secretly recorded the confessional telephone calls.

Then on 13 January 1998, Tripp allegedly went a step further and was wired by FBI agents. She met with Lewinsky at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel bar in Pentagon City, Virginia, to record another conversation about the affair.

Weeks later, the scandal was covered by news website The Drudge Report and subsequently blew up in the mainstream press.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Markowitz - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jeffrey Markowitz - Getty Images

President Clinton then denied everything in a now-infamous interview (26 January 1998), stating that the allegations were false and delivered his well-known line of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky".

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made several statements to the press supporting her husband too, once saying in a broadcast interview that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" is behind the charges against her husband (who was also accused of groping another staffer, Kathleen Willey, around the same time as the affair leaked – something he strongly denied).

However, by the July of 1998, Lewinsky received total witness immunity in exchange for a grand jury testament about her relationship with Clinton, and a few weeks later, Clinton finally admitted to the affair as well. DNA evidence obtained from a dark blue dress worn by Lewinsky confirmed that the pair had indeed had a physical relationship.

On the 11 September 1998, Clinton delivered a speech addressing the affair at a White House Prayer breakfast, attended my many notable figures including his wife, and said that he had 'sinned' and asked for forgiveness.

Photo credit: David Hume Kennerly - Getty Images
Photo credit: David Hume Kennerly - Getty Images

"I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks to get to the end of this, to the rock bottom truth of where I am and where we all are," he told the room. "I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.

"It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness."

By December 1998, Clinton was impeached on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. However, he was acquitted and never removed from office.

Where is Monica Lewinsky now?

While Clinton remained a popular president until 2001, Lewinsky was publicly shamed on a global scale. Lewinsky, who was just 25 by the time she was revealed as Clinton's mistress wrote for Vanity Fair in 2014 about her experience. "Thanks to the Drudge Report, I was also possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the internet." Later on, in her 2015 Ted Talk 'The Price of Shame', Lewinsky further discussed her experiences with public shaming.

Since then, Lewinsky has also spoken at a number of conferences, highlighting the injustice of her experience and is now an anti-bullying activist. She’s also now serving as an executive producer on Impeachment: American Crime Story.

Lewinsky explained that "people have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades. In fact, it wasn't until the past few years that I've been able to fully reclaim my narrative; almost 20 years later." And, we’re excited to see what she has to say.

Photo credit: Kevin Winter - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kevin Winter - Getty Images

Where is Bill Clinton now?

Clinton remains married to his wife Hillary, who also ran for US president against Donald Trump in 2016. He was heavily involved with her campaign trail. The former President keeps an office in New York City and maintains an active speaking schedule.

Photo credit: Gotham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gotham - Getty Images

When is Impeachment: American Crime Story out in the UK?

Between Impeachment: American Crime Story and House of Gucci, 2021 truly is the golden age for bingeable biopics. American Crime Story: Impeachment premieres on FX in the US on 7 September 2021. A UK release date is yet to be confirmed.

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