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Bill Clinton says Lewinsky affair was to 'manage anxieties'

Peter Hutchison

Agence France-Presse

New York, United States  /  Sat, March 7, 2020  /  05:08 pm
Bill Clinton says Lewinsky affair was to 'manage anxieties'

In this file photo taken on September 30, 2019 Former US President Bill Clinton arrives to attend a church service for former French President Jacques Chirac at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris. (AFP/Martin Bureau)

Bill Clinton said he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky to help him deal with the stress of being president as he opened up in a documentary released Friday about the scandal that led to his impeachment.

In the four-part Hulu series, Clinton says his sexual relationship with the then White House intern was a means "to manage my anxieties", and that he felt "terrible" the affair came to define Lewinsky's life.

"It was awful what I did," added the 73-year-old. "We all bring our baggage to life and sometimes we do things we shouldn't do."  

Clinton described the affair as motivated by life's "pressure and disappointments and terrors, fears of whatever, things I did to manage my anxieties for years." 

Bill and Hillary Clinton were interviewed separately about what they recall from that time for the series entitled Hillary, focused on the life of the former first lady.

Clinton's sexual relationship with Lewinsky and subsequent denial about it under oath led to his impeachment in December 1998. 

He was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999 but the scandal came to define his presidency.

Hillary Clinton says she felt "devastated and so personally hurt" when her husband told her about the affair.

They both talk about how Hillary told him to inform their daughter Chelsea before the news became public.

"So, I did that, which was awful," said the ex-president. "What I did was wrong. I just hated to hurt her," he added.

Bill Clinton insisted nobody in his position would have thought about the risks they were taking by having the affair.

"You feel like you are staggering around, you have been in a 15-round prize fight that was extended to 30 rounds and here is something that will take your mind off of it for a while. That is what happens," he explained.

The 42nd president also reflects on how the incident affected Lewinsky, who was 22 when the two-year affair began in 1995, saying he thinks her life has been "unfairly" defined by it.

Read also: Sex and the White House: from Clinton to Trump


"Over the years I have watched her trying to get a normal life back again. But you got to decide how to define normal," he told the interviewer.

Both Clintons reflect on Hillary's decision to stand by her husband.

She said she has been both criticized and praised over the years and suggested the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power had led people to view her decision differently. 

"It is a funny time we live in, the kind of public opinion shifts and people say, 'Oh, so noble, she stayed in her marriage' to 'Oh, it is so incomprehensible that she stayed in her marriage,'" says Clinton. 

"You know that there are forces (at) work in a society that people are working through themselves," she adds.

During the hour-long episode, Bill says he felt "so grateful" that his wife stuck by him. 

"God knows the burden she paid for that," said the former president.

He also contemplates how he has changed in the more than 20 years since the scandal. 

"I am a totally different person than I was. Maybe it is just getting older, but I hope it was also going through a lot of this," he says.

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