In addition to generating a lot of political fireworks, the “Lewinsky Scandal” involving President Bill Clinton and 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky generated several famous quotations.
On January 26, 1998, President Bill Clinton held a press conference in which he famously and vehemently denied having an affair with Lewinsky, saying:
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky!”
Of course, months later, after a grand jury investigation, he admitted that he did.
But on January 27, 1998, the day after Bill’s initial high profile denial, First Lady Hillary Clinton defended her husband and uttered another now-famous quote.
She said it in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show.
Lauer politely but persistently asked tough questions about Bill’s “alleged” affair with Monica and about the so-called “Whitewater” investigation into the Clintons’ past financial affairs, which was being conducted by independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Hillary gamely stood by her husband, just as she did six years earlier, during the Clintons’ game-changing January 26, 1992 interview on 60 Minutes, when she huffed: “I’m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette.”
In the Today Show interview, when Lauer asked her about Lewinsky, Clinton said (apparently unaware of the multiple ironies): “I think the important thing now is to stand as firmly as I can and say that, you know, the president has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally.”
She went on to say she was “very concerned about the tactics being used and the kind of intense political agenda” of people who were criticizing and investigating the Clintons.
She told Matt:
“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.”
Hillary’s use that day made the term “vast right-wing conspiracy” a widely-known political phrase. But she didn’t coin it.
It had been used years before in news stories unrelated to the Clintons.
In 1991, a story about British movies in the Detroit News said: “Thatcher-era Britain produced its own crop of paranoid left-liberal films... All posited a vast right-wing conspiracy propping up a reactionary government ruthlessly crushing all efforts at opposition under the guise of parliamentary democracy.”
An Associated Press story in 1995 used the phrase in a story about the Oklahoma City bombing, saying it was the work of a few malcontents rather than “some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy.”
In the fall of 1998, the Lewinsky Scandal went on to generate yet another famous quote.
On August 17, 1998, President Clinton gave videotaped testimony to the grand jury. The video was released publicly by the House Judiciary Committee of Congress on September 21, 1998.
When it was, the world heard Bill’s legendary response when asked if he and Monika had previously lied when they said there is no sexual relation between them. He said, straight-faced:
“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If ‘is’ means is and never has been, that’s one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.”
I am not now and never have been part of any right-wing (or left-wing) conspiracy. But I have to say, I think that “meaning of the word ‘is’” quote, in particular, is an example of why Bill got the nickname “Slick Willie.”
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