Lewinsky scandal was a political sex scandal emerging from a sexual relationship between United States President Bill Clinton and a 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The news of this extra-marital affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal on all impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in a 21-day Senate trial.
In 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a graduate of Lewis & Clark College, was hired to work as an intern at the White House during Clinton's first term, and began a personal relationship with him, the details of which she later confided to her friend and Defense department co-worker Linda Tripp, who secretly recorded their telephone conversations. When Tripp discovered in January 1998 that Lewinsky had signed an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying a relationship with Clinton, she delivered the tapes to Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel who was investigating Clinton on other matters, including the Whitewater scandal, the White House FBI files controversy, and the White House travel office controversy. During the grand jury testimony Clinton's responses were guarded, and he argued, "It depends on what the meaning of the word is is".
The wide reporting of the scandal led to criticism of the press for over-coverage. The scandal is sometimes referred to as "Monicagate" "Lewinskygate", "Tailgate", "Sexgate", and "Zippergate", following the "gate" nickname construction that has been popular since the Watergate scandal.
Denial and subsequent admission
News of the scandal first broke on January 17, 1998, on the Drudge Report website, which reported that Newsweek editors were sitting on a story by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff exposing the affair. The story broke in the mainstream press on January 21 in The Washington Post. The story swirled for several days and, despite swift denials from Clinton, the clamor for answers from the White House grew louder. On January 26, President Clinton, standing with his wife, spoke at a White House press conference, and issued a forceful denial, which contained what would later become one of the best-known sound bites of his presidency:
Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.
Pundits debated whether or not Clinton would address the allegations in his State of the Union Address. Ultimately, he chose not to mention them. Hillary Clinton stood by her husband throughout the scandal. On January 27, in an appearance on NBC's Today she famously said, "The great story here for anybody willing to find it, 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.
Allegations of sexual contact
Lewinsky alleged nine sexual encounters with Bill Clinton:
November 15, 1995, in the private study of the Oval Office
November 17, 1995, while Bill Clinton was on the phone with a member of Congress
December 31, 1995, in a White House study
January 7, 1996, in the Oval Office
January 21, 1996, in the hallway by the private study next to the Oval Office
February 4, 1996, while Clinton was meeting in the Oval Office
March 31, 1996, in the hallway near the study of the Oval Office
February 28, 1997, near the Oval Office, when the blue dress stains were created
March 29, 1997 (Clinton, however, denied that this day's encounter actually happened.)
According to her published schedule, First Lady Hillary Clinton was at the White House for at least some portion of five of these stated days.
In April 1996, Lewinsky's superiors relocated her job to the Pentagon because they felt that she was spending too much time around Clinton. According to his autobiography, then-United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson was asked by the White House in 1997 to interview Lewinsky for a job on his staff at the UN. Richardson did so, and offered her a position, which she declined. The American Spectator alleged that Richardson knew more about the Lewinsky affair than he declared to the grand jury.
In December 1998, Clinton's political party, the Democratic Party, was in the minority in both chambers of Congress. Some Democratic members of Congress, and most in the opposition Republican Party, believed that Clinton's giving false testimony and allegedly influencing Lewinsky's testimony were crimes of obstruction of justice and perjury and thus impeachable offenses. The House of Representatives voted to issue Articles of Impeachment against him which was followed by a 21-day trial in the Senate.
All of the Democrats in the Senate voted for acquittal on both the perjury and the obstruction of justice charges. Ten Republicans voted for acquittal for perjury: Chafee (Rhode Island), Collins (Maine), Gorton (Washington), Jeffords (Vermont), Shelby (Alabama), Snowe (Maine), Specter (Pennsylvania), Stevens (Alaska), Thompson (Tennessee), and Warner (Virginia). Five Republicans voted for acquittal for obstruction of justice: Chafee, Collins, Jeffords, Snowe, and Specter.
President Clinton was thereby acquitted of all charges and remained in office. There were attempts to censure the President by the House of Representatives, but those attempts failed.
Historian Taylor Branch implied that Clinton had requested changes to Branch's 2009 Clinton biography, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, regarding Clinton's revelation that the Lewinsky affair began because "I cracked; I just cracked." Branch writes that Clinton had felt "beleaguered, unappreciated and open to a liaison with Lewinsky" following "the Democrats' loss of Congress in the November 1994 elections, the death of his mother the previous January, and the ongoing Whitewater investigation. Publicly, Clinton had previously blamed the affair on "a terrible moral error" and on anger at Republicans, stating, "if people have unresolved anger, it makes them do non-rational, destructive things.