Offered an opportunity for a “do-over,” former president Bill Clinton acknowledged Tuesday night that his testy response this week to questions about Monica Lewinsky “wasn’t my finest hour.”
Clinton’s appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was his latest stop on a book tour to promote a novel co-written with author James Patterson. The tour has become mired in questions about his dalliance 20 years ago with a White House intern.
Colbert referenced the tour’s kickoff Monday on NBC’s “Today” show, where Clinton’s responses to questions about whether he had apologized to Lewinsky were widely panned as tone deaf in the era of the #MeToo movement.
“I noticed you did not enjoy that entire interview,” Colbert said. “I want you to enjoy this one, but I do want to ask you something: Would you like a do-over on that answer? Do you understand why some people thought it was a tone-deaf response?”
Clinton explained he was frustrated because he thought it came across as though he had not apologized; he said he had done so in public statements. But, he conceded, after watching the interview, “I was mad at me — not for the first time.”
After the crowd laughed, Clinton continued: “Here is what I want to say: It wasn’t my finest hour.”
He went on to characterize the Lewinsky episode, which led to his impeachment by the House but acquittal by the Senate, as a “very painful thing that happened 20 years ago.”
“And I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family and the American people,” Clinton said. “I mean it then; I mean it now. I have had to live with the consequences every day since. I still believe this #MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and should be supported.”
Speaking at another stop on his tour Tuesday — to a crowd of New York Times subscribers at a TimesTalks event — Clinton was critical of Craig Melvin, who interviewed him on the “Today” show, according to an account by BuzzFeed.
Clinton said he grew angered by Melvin’s “flat-out assertion that I had never apologized.” In fact, Melvin asked Clinton if he had ever apologized privately to Lewinsky.
“I should have remembered that man is young enough to be my son,” Clinton said at the TimesTalks event of Melvin, who is 39.
“I messed up, and I own that, and no mistake by anybody else — including that young man aggressively saying I didn’t apologize — can justify the fact that I got mad when I should have been saying, ‘I’ve got a chance to tell a whole new generation that the journey I’ve been on the past 20 years is one the country has to take, and that #MeToo is demanding we take it, and the sooner the better.’ And that’s what I think,” Clinton said.
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