Have you ever been caught having an affair with a colleague and publicly denied that anything happened before having to do a complete about turn by owning up to it?
If you have, don’t worry because you’re not alone.
US President Bill Clinton had an affair with 22 year old intern Monica Lewinsky that caused a political scandal in 1998.
Upon being caught with his trousers down in both a figurative and literal sense, the President made a televised speech that included a vehement denial that he had ever had sexual relations with Lewinsky.
The scandal led to criticisms of the press for over-coverage and the affair has since become popularly known as “Monicagate,” “Lewinskygate,” “Tailgate,” “Sexgate,” and “Zippergate,” amongst other colourful monikers that have been used to refer to what happened between Bill and Monica.
Lewinsky was hired during Clinton’s first Presidential term in 1995 as an intern at the White House and was later employed by the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. It was alleged that Clinton began a relationship with her that she later admitted to Linda Tripp, her Defense Department co-worker who secretly recorded their telephone conversations about the affair and persuaded her not to dry clean a semen-stained dress that provided evidence disproving Clinton’s official denials.
In January 1998, Tripp found out that Lewinsky had sworn an affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case that was being brought against Clinton. It denied that she had had a relationship with him. She delivered tape recordings to Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel investigating Clinton on matters that included the Whitewater scandal, the White House FBI files controversy, and the White House travel office controversy.
During a grand jury testimony, Clinton said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” with regard to the truthfulness of his statement that claimed “there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship,” between him and Lewinsky.
Hillary Clinton remained supportive of her husband as news of the scandal gathered pace, and said, “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
Clinton’s testimony in the Paula Jones lawsuit where he denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky was found to be false and perjurious based on the evidence of the blue dress. Clinton had been asked “Have you ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky?” and answered “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky,” after being given an opportunity to review the agreed definition by the judge.
Clinton later said, “I thought the definition included any activity by [me], where [I] was the actor and came in contact with those parts of the bodies” which had been explicitly listed (“with an intent to gratify or arouse the sexual desire of any person”). In other words, Clinton denied ever actively making contact with Lewinsky’s “genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks”, himself and effectively claimed that the definition of “sexual relations” included giving oral sex but did not amount to receiving it – which is quite possibly the most imaginative denial of adultery that we’ve ever come across.
Clinton providing false testimony and allegedly influencing Lewinsky’s testimony were impeachable offenses and The House of Representatives voted to issue Articles of Impeachment against him in December 1998.
President Clinton was ultimately acquitted of all charges and subsequent attempts to censure him by the House of Representatives also failed.
Have a look at the video below and think back to a time when you denied engaging in sexual relations with a colleague (after a Christmas party perhaps?) but were later forced to retract your statement in light of compelling evidence to the contrary (mobile phone footage). It’s fair to say that your reputation wouldn’t be as soiled as President Clinton’s was at the time, or indeed Miss Lewinsky’s dress.