Jan. 26, 1998: President Clinton denies sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky
They were words spoken 25 years ago, but many of us remember them like they were yesterday.
When US president Bill Clinton insisted, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” little did he know that it would become the sentence he was best known for.
The famous denial came after Clinton was engulfed by a scandal in 1998 when it was claimed he had had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, between 1995 and 1997 when she was in her 20s.
Lewinsky had been hired as an intern during Clinton’s first term in 1995 and went on to become a White House employee.
She later confided in Linda Tripp, a colleague at the US Defense Department, about her relationship with the president, unaware that her friend was secretly recording their phone conversations and later delivered them to special counsel Ken Starr, who was investigating Clinton on other matters.
When the revelations emerged, Clinton was engulfed in the scandal, prompting him to hit back in a now-famous speech on 26 January 1998.
Speaking at a public engagement where he appeared with his wife, the president stated: “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.”
For the next several months and through the summer, the media debated whether an affair had occurred and whether Clinton had lied or obstructed justice, but nothing could be definitively established beyond the taped recordings because Lewinsky was unwilling to discuss the affair or testify about it.
On July 28, 1998, a substantial delay after the public break of the scandal, Lewinsky received transactional immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony concerning her relationship with Clinton. She also turned over a semen-stained blue dress (which Tripp had encouraged her to save without dry cleaning) to the Starr investigators.
The FBI tested the dress and matched the semen stains to a blood sample from Clinton, thereby providing unambiguous DNA evidence that could prove the relationship despite Clinton’s official denials.
Hillary Clinton remained supportive of her husband throughout the scandal. On January 27, in an appearance on NBC‘s Today she said, “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.”
Bill Clinton later admitted that he did, in fact, have an inappropriate and “wrong” relationship with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but insisted he did nothing illegal.
Nemo me impune lacessit