Bill Clinton on Monday sat down for an interview with Today host Craig Melvin to promote the fictional spy thriller he wrote with bestselling author James Patterson. But instead of discussing the collaboration, the former president spent much of the interview defending himself from criticism of his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky that has been renewed following the rise of the #MeToo movement. Clinton largely positioned himself as a victim of a flawed narrative while denying that he owes Lewinksy a personal apology.
The interview grew tense when Melvin asked Clinton whether the #MeToo movement has caused him to think differently about how he handled the Lewinksy scandal, and if he now feels more responsibility for the pain he caused Lewinsky, who in March wrote for Vanity Fair about how she has suffered from PTSD.
"No, I felt terrible then," Clinton said. "And I came to grips with it."
Melvin then asked if he ever apologized to Lewinksy.
"Yes," Clinton said, "and nobody believes I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt, 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. They were not insensitive to that. I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the eighties. I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were overrepresented in the attorney general’s office in the seventies, for their percentage in the bar. I have had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left. You are giving one side and omitting facts."
When Melvin pressed Clinton about whether he had apologized to Lewinksy, he clarified that he had "apologized to everyone in the world," but that he has not talked to Lewinksy. When Melvin asked if Clinton felt like he owed her a private apology, he said said he didn't. "No, I do not," the former president stammered. "I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That's very different. The apology was public."
When Melvin tried to clarify that Clinton doesn't believe he owes Lewinksy a private apology, Patterson, who was seated to Clinton's right, cut in to say that "this was 20 years ago" and to "stop, already."
“But you didn’t apologize to her [Lewinsky]?” -@craigmelvin— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 4, 2018
“I have not talked to her.” –Bill Clinton
“Do you feel that you owe her an apology?” –Melvin
“No. I have never talked to her, but I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry.” -Clinton pic.twitter.com/dVAb0OycIa
At no point did Clinton express remorse for how he handled the situation. "I did the right thing," he said. "I defended the Constitution."
Clinton's novel with James Patterson, The President Is Missing, was published Monday.