UPDATE: Bill Clinton said he “was mad” at himself for how he handled a Today show question about the #MeToo movement and his affair with Monica Lewinsky during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Tuesday. Colbert asked Clinton if he wanted a “do-over” on his answer and pressed the former president to address how the #MeToo movement has changed how he looks back on his actions.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) June 5, 2018
“When I saw the interview, I thought that because they had to distill it, it looked like I was saying I didn’t apologize and I had no intention to, and I was mad at me,” Clinton said. He added, “Here’s what I want to say, it wasn’t my finest hour, but the important thing is that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago and I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people. I meant it then, I mean it now. I’ve had to live with the consequences every day since. I still believe this #MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and should be supported.”
Bill Clinton was unprepared for questions about Monica Lewinksky when he sat down for an interview with the Today show’s Craig Melvin on Monday. The former president was joined by bestselling author James Patterson, with whom he wrote a fictional spy thriller that was released the day of the appearance. When Melvin turned the discussion from the book to Lewinsky and the #MeToo movement, Clinton went on the defensive, stammering as he insisted there is no need for any additional reckoning. He also said he does not feel the need to apologize to Lewinsky personally.
Later that day, Clinton addressed the backlash to his comments while speaking at an event at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. “The hubbub was that I got hot under the collar because of the way the questions were asked,” he said before noting that two points were lost from what he had said earlier. He then doubled down on his belief that no personal apology was necessary given that he apologized to Lewinsky and her family publicly. “I did that,” he said. “I meant it then, and I mean it today. I live with it all the time.” Clinton also clarified that he supports the “long overdue” #MeToo movement, and that the has “always tried to support it in the decisions and policies that [he has] advanced.”
What lingered from the morning TV interview was Clinton’s exasperated tone and the sense that he shouldn’t be forced to address an issue that, as he tried to explain on the Today show, has already been litigated. He seems to have taken issue with Melvin’s line of questioning, although it’s unclear which questions he found objectionable. As was the case Monday morning, Clinton’s focus at the Schomburg Center was on himself. “The suggestion was that I never apologized for what caused all the trouble for me 20 years ago,” he said before recounting how he apologized publicly.
Lewinsky responded to Clinton’s Today show appearance by re-sharing the article she wrote in March for Vanity Fair that sets her experience with Clinton within the context of the #MeToo movement. “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years,” she tweeted.
grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) June 4, 2018
Melvin referenced the Vanity Fair article while questioning Clinton, noting that Lewinsky wrote about suffering from PTSD and asking the former president if the #MeToo movement has led him to view the affair differently.
“No, I felt terrible then,” Clinton responded. “And I came to grips with it.”