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In Light Of #MeToo, NBC News Asks Bill Clinton About Monica Lewinsky


Former President Bill Clinton is out and about promoting a new book, and his interviews are opening some old wounds. In an interview with NBC News this morning, Clinton said he never privately apologized to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a relationship with two decades ago.


BILL CLINTON: I did not - I've 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.

KING: The apology was public, he said there. Anne Flaherty is a reporter for The Associated Press. She's been covering this story. Good morning, Anne.

ANNE FLAHERTY: Good morning, Noel.

KING: How did that question come up in the first place about whether he'd apologized to Monica Lewinsky privately?

FLAHERTY: You know, the interview was so interesting because Craig Melvin actually starts the entire interview with what I thought was such a softball question, which is - everyone is thinking, really, in light of Me Too, does Bill Clinton think he's guilty of anything? And Lewinsky has, you know, written about this issue. But the question he starts with, kind of this softball question, which is, how would you approach the accusations differently in light of this new Me Too era? And, you know, did you - he eventually gets to the question of, did you do anything wrong? But Clinton has to go through - Bill Clinton goes through these, kind of these different thought process of it. You know, no, I didn't do anything wrong. Well, I did apologize to her. And then of course, he starts to talk about, well, the rules have changed, but the facts haven't, which I thought was an interesting response.

KING: Did he say anything new about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky? Because he was pressed on that a bit, right?

FLAHERTY: He was. You know, I didn't hear anything that surprised me or that I thought was new. He did talk about, he says that he didn't get off free, that he had left the White House $16 million in debt. I hadn't heard that precise figure, but I know that it was in the millions, that when he left the White House he faced steep legal fees, or at least the party did. You know, saying repeatedly that he hadn't talked to her since the incident and that he had never apologized to her privately, that he had only apologized publicly and he felt that that was adequate, that was probably a little bit new.

KING: So did it seem like he had any regrets over how he handled things at all?

FLAHERTY: None whatsoever. At least, that was my take of it. You know, I think it was just an interesting way that he approached it which was to say, you know, look, you guys are all talking about Me Too, and that's fine. And he even says at one point, I think it's overdue. And he does say, I do have questions about it. Which, you know the interviewer doesn't press him on, which I think is interesting. And I would have loved to have asked him, you know, what are your questions about the Me Too movement? But he clearly does not think that he did anything wrong, and he was really resistant to the idea that he would ever consider resigning if the Monica Lewinsky relationship were to happen now.

KING: I want to play some tape of what President Clinton said about the Me Too movement because as you point out, some of these new criticisms of Clinton kicked up in the wake of this movement over the past couple of months. Let's play a quick cut of tape.


CLINTON: I like the Me Too movement. It's way overdue. I think that it doesn't mean I agree with everything. I still have some questions about some of the decisions which have been made.

KING: Questions about some of the decisions that have been made. Was he specific at all there?

FLAHERTY: You know, that was the amazing part that, you know, NBC is just releasing snippets of the interview so we don't have the entire interview. But from what I can tell of what was released, he was never pressed on that particular point. And we do know from covering the Me Too issue that a question that a lot of men privately have is, is it gone too far? Is it going to sweep up people who are innocent and, you know, not Harvey Weinstein? So, you know, I wonder if that was what he was alluding to, was that he felt like perhaps it's gone too far.

KING: And, just quickly, is the whole interview going to air in any form, or is this all we're going to get?

FLAHERTY: You know, I'm not sure. I think NPR has - I mean, I'm sorry, NBC has released the second half of it. But I believe that that was the only piece that was related to just Clinton and the Me Too movement.

KING: Anne Flaherty's a reporter with The Associated Press. Thanks, Anne.

FLAHERTY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
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