ABC and NBC on Friday spun the cringe-inducing, awkward new comments by Bill Clinton, in which the former President blamed his White House affair with Monica Lewinsky as “anxiety” management. The Today show and Good Morning America hailed a Hulu documentary as “remarkable,” “iconic” and a look at the “painful” time (for the Clintons).
Only the co-hosts at CBS This Morning seemed appalled that Clinton is now basically describing Lewinsky as something to relieve his stress. Co-host Anthony Mason marveled, “Still no apology, though, is there in that documentary?” Gayle King, suprisingly, chided Clinton: “And once again, [it] minimizes, marginalizes her.” She attacked, “He says it was something about handling his anxiety? I'm just number one, I'm sorry to hear that.”
King reminded who the focus should be on all this:
My heart goes out to Monica Lewinsky again, I mean, she was 21, 22. She's now 40 something. She's smart. She's funny. She's kind. She's lovely, but she still has this baggage that is tied to her while everyone else has sort of tiptoed through the tulips, she's still stuck with this. It just seems to unfair to me about her.
Dokoupil lamented that the documentary still doesn’t address “the fundamental power imbalance between the President of the United States” and an intern.
Over on GMA, Cecilia Vega insisted that “former President Bill Clinton [is] opening up about a painful and very public episode in his life, that relationship with Monica Lewinsky.” Reporter Paula Faris complimented, “Clinton speaking possibly as candid as ever about the scandal that nearly cost him his job and his family.”
Faris touted the “compelling” documentary. Unlike the journalists at CBS, there was no questioning the awkward description of Lewinsky as a form of anxiety management.
Also ignored? Hulu is owned by Disney, which also owns ABC. No disclaimer, but Vega did a little ad at the end of the segment: “You can see more of that interview with Bill Clinton. The new docu-series is called Hillary out now on Hulu.”
On NBC’s Today, Kristen Welker hyped, “Now a revealing new look at one of America's most infamous political scandals.” Correspondent Stephanie Gosk uncritically related that “the former President blaming anxiety in office for his transgressions.”
To Gosk’s credit, she at least replayed an old interview of NBC’s Craig Melvin demanding Bill Clinton offer a personal apology to Lewinsky. However, the segment ended with Gosk praising “iconic” video of Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Bill Clinton all holding hands after the affair:
Yeah, this is actually an iconic piece of video from that time. The day after Bill Clinton comes out and admits to having this affair with Monica Lewinsky and they were on their way to Martha's Vineyard. Chelsea Clinton stands between them. She is only 18 at the time. And she grabs both of their hands, you see it in the video there, and Hillary Clinton says at that moment she was so struck by her daughter and how strong her daughter was and how she knew that's exactly what they needed in that moment. Pretty remarkable.
Transcripts from all three networks are below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
7:49 AM ET
VLAD DUTHIERS: Former president Bill Clinton is addressing the affair he had with Monica Lewinsky 25 years ago. The revelations are part of a new Hulu docuseries out today titled Hillary. In it, Mr. Clinton acknowledges the relationship he had with Lewinsky was out of line. Take a listen.
BILL CLINTON: Everybody’s life has pressures and disappointments, terrors, fears of whatever. Things I did to manage my anxieties for years, I'm a different — totally different person than I was.
DUTHIERS: He goes on to say it's not a defense for the affair. It's an explanation.
ANTHONY MASON: Still no apology, though, is there in that documentary?
DUTHIERS: He says he feels terrible but no apology.
GAYLE KING: He says it was something about handling his anxiety? I'm just number one, I'm sorry to hear that. I just think that kind of thing should have been reserved for your closest friends. And for me my heart goes out to Monica Lewinsky again, I mean, she was 21, 22. She's now 40 something. She's smart. She's funny. She's kind. She's lovely, but she still has this baggage that is tied to her while everyone else has sort of tiptoed through the tulips, she's still stuck with this. It just seems to unfair to me about her.
MASON: When I said no apology, I meant no apology to Monica Lewinsky.
KING: To Monica!
DOKOUPIL: And not addressing the fundamental power imbalance between the President of the United States.
KING: And an intern.
MASON: And a 21-year-old.
DUTHIERS: Regardless of anxiety or the stress that you feel because you hold that office, a 22-year-old intern.
KING: And once again, minimizes, marginalizes her. It was wrong on all parts. But I hear that and my heart goes out to her.
DUTHIERS: Indeed. Indeed.
Good Morning America
7:42 AM ET
CECILIA VEGA: We are back with former president Bill Clinton opening up about a painful and very public episode in his life, that relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Paula Faris is here with more on this revealing interview. It is part of a new documentary about Hillary Clinton. Good morning, Paula.
PAULA FARIS: Good morning to you. Good morning, everybody. This docu-series which premiered at Sundance features never before seen footage from the 2016 campaign trail and Bill Clinton speaking possibly as candid as ever about the scandal that nearly cost him his job and his family.
BILL CLINTON: Nobody thinks, “I'm taking a risk.” That's not why people do stupid things.
FARIS: This morning, former President Bill Clinton opening up about one of the most infamous scandals in presidential history.
BILL CLINTON: I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's life was defined by it, unfairly, I think. You know, over the years I've watched her trying to get a normal life back again, but you got to decide how to define normal.
FARIS: In a new Hulu documentary series centered on his wife Hillary Clinton, the former president says the pressure of life in politics in part led to his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
BILL CLINTON: But I did it, it was bad. It wasn't like I thought, “Let's see, how can I think about the most stupid thing I could possibly do and do it.” It's not a defense. It's an explanation. It was awful.
FARIS: The documentary also detailing how he told the First Lady about his relationship with Lewinsky after he initially lied about it to his family and the country.
ARCHIVED BILL CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Miss Lewinsky.
BILL CLINTON: I went and sat on the bed and talked to her. I told her exactly what happened, when it happened. I said, I feel terrible about it. I said we've been through quite a bit in the last few years. I said I have no defense. This is inexcusable what I did.
HILLARY CLINTON: I was so, you know, personally just hurt and, you know, “I can't believe this. I can't believe you lied.” You know, it just -- anyway it was horrible and I said, “If this is going to be public, then you have got to go tell Chelsea.
BILL CLINTON: She said, “Well, you have to go tell your daughter.” She said, “That's worse than me.” And so I did that. Which was awful.
HILLARY CLINTON: I didn't want anything to do with him. He spent a lot of time playing golf and talking to a couple of his friends.
FARIS: The couple deciding to stay together and seek counseling.
HILLARY CLINTON: I made a decision to stay with my husband. Look, I think that some people thought I made the right decision and some people thought I made the wrong decision.
BILL CLINTON: I was so grateful that she thought we still had enough to stick it out. God knows the burden she paid for that.
FARIS: It is quite compelling. Hillary Clinton is very careful in choosing her words, never saying Monica Lewinsky's name. We reached out to Ms. Lewinsky and she's not commenting but the four-part biographical docu-series is out today on hulu and Hillary says she wants people to walk away realizing she's not as good nor bad as people perceive her to be.
KRISTEN WELKER: Now a revealing new look at one of America's most infamous political scandals. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk is here with that story. This is an interesting one.
STEPHANIE GOSK: Yeah. It really is. A snapshot of the Clintons we have not seen before. In 1998, Bill Clinton shocked the world, first denying then admitting to an affair with then White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The scandal launching a lengthy investigation that ended in impeachment. Since leaving office 20 years ago, The Clintons have stayed relatively quiet about what went on behind the scenes. But now a new documentary is pulling back the curtain.
BILL CLINTON: We all bring our baggage to life. Sometimes we do things we shouldn't do. It was awful what I did.
GOSK: This morning, former President Bill Clinton opening up about his affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky, including when he told his wife about it.
BILL CLINTON: I told her exactly what happened, when it happened. I said, “I feel terrible about it.”
HILLARY CLINTON: I was so, you know, personally just hurt and, you know, “I can't believe this. I can't believe you lied.”
BILL CLINTON: She said, “Well, you have to go tell your daughter. She said that's worse than me.” And so I did that. Which was awful.
GOSK: The former president blaming anxiety in office for his transgressions.
BILL CLINTON: You have been in a 15-round fight that was extended to 30 rounds and here is someone to take your mind off it for a while.
GOSK: Their revealing comments part of new Hulu documentary Hillary, focused on her life and career in the spotlight.
BILL CLINTON: I defended and stood by him because I thought the impeachment process was wrong, but that wasn't the necessary answer to what I would do with my marriage.
GOSK: The Clintons candid revelations following years of scrutiny after Bill's actions with Monica Lewinsky.
CRAIG MELVIN: Looking back on what happened, through the lens of Me Too now, do you think differently or feel more responsibility?
BILL CLINTON: No. I felt terrible then and I came to grips with it.
GOSK: In 2018, Clinton speaking to Craig about Lewinsky, saying he wouldn't have done anything differently.
MELVIN: Do you owe an apology?
BILL CLINTON: No. I do not — I have never talked to her, but I did say publicly on more than one occasion I was sorry.
MONICA LEWINSKY: I eventually came to this point where I had to realize I couldn't run away from what happened to me.
GOSK: Last October, Lewinsky told Savannah how she transformed her own pain into an anti-bullying crusade.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: What did it feel like in that moment to come out and reclaim your story?
LEWINSKY: Well, it was terrifying. I think that it really could have gone differently and I'm so incredibly grateful for how things have changed.
GOSK: Clinton now saying it was unfair Lewinsky's name became synonymous with scandal.
BILL CLINTON: I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's life was defined by it, unfairly I think. You know, over the years I have watched her try to get her normal life back again, but you've got to decide how to define normal.
MELVIN: Steph, so we heard the former Secretary of State defending her husband in part by saying the impeachment process was wrong, but said she was unsure about whether to stay in the marriage. What else did she say about that decision, to stay in the marriage?
GOSK: Well, it’s interesting. She draws a distinction between those decisions, one to defend him, which she did during the impeachment process, and the other deciding whether or not they still had a marriage after all of this. They went through counseling, what they described, Hillary Clinton described as painful counseling, and then Bill Clinton says it was one of the hardest things he ever did. Obviously, in the end, they stayed together.
WELKER: Remarkable to hear them speak so emotionally about this moment. They also open up about a moment with Chelsea Clinton after the revelations. Tell us about that.
GOSK: Yeah, this is actually an iconic piece of video from that time. The day after Bill Clinton comes out and admits to having this affair with Monica Lewinsky and they were on their way to Martha's Vineyard. Chelsea Clinton stands between them. She is only 18 at the time. And she grabs both of their hands, you see it in the video there, and Hillary Clinton says at that moment she was so struck by her daughter and how strong her daughter was and how she knew that's exactly what they needed in that moment. Pretty remarkable.
MELVIN: That documentary out on Hulu today. Just quickly, what was their motivation? Do we know why they decided to do this now?
GOSK: One of the things that Hillary Clinton said she is not running for anything. It was an opportunity to be open. I know there are a lot of people out there that sort of wished that kind of openness happened a while ago. But it's out there now.
WELKER: Really great point. A lot of people will want to see this. Thank you so much. Great report.