Bill Clinton Recalls 'Raw Pain' of Monica Lewinsky Scandal

Former President Bill Clinton said the #MeToo movement means he must "not react to the raw pain of having to relive" the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In an appearance on Tuesday night's The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah asked Clinton if it has been "hard for you to reprogram your brain" because of #MeToo, a women-led campaign against the abuse of power by men for sexual purposes, brought to prominence by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The hashtag #MeToo went viral as women shared their stories of abuse.

"It means that I have to not react to the raw pain of having to relive something that happened 20 years ago and I need to be aware that, unfortunately, there's still millions of people every day who face objectification, disrespect, discrimination, and sometimes outright abuse," Clinton said.

"In the workplace, on the street, and at home. And now we're all alive to it in ways we weren't before and we're all trying to work our way through—not all of us, but most of us are—how we can use this moment to build a better country in person, after person, after person's lives.

Bill Clinton
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall November 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. Clinton said he still has "raw pain" about the Monica Lewinsky scandal during an appearance on The Daily Show. Win McNamee/Getty Images

"And that should be the number one priority of everybody. That's how we should think about this #MeToo moment. We can't waste it. We gotta do better."

The #MeToo campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Clinton was nearly impeached by Congress in 1998 over his affair with Lewinsky, a White House intern in her early 20s, but his presidency survived. Around the anniversary, the incident was reanalyzed through the lens of #MeToo, giving it a fresh perspective.

Lewinsky wrote for Vanity Fair in a reflection 20 years after the scandal for which she was vilified that because of #MeToo she is "beginning…to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern. I'm beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot."

Clinton is on a book tour to promote his new novel The President Is Missing, co-written with the author James Patterson.

During one interview as part of that tour with NBC's Craig Melvin, Clinton grew angry with questioning about the Lewinsky scandal. Melvin asked Clinton if he were president today in 2018, in the context of #MeToo, would he resign over Lewinsky?

"I don't think it would be an issue because people would be using the facts instead of the imagined facts," Clinton said. "If the facts were the same today, I wouldn't."

Clinton was asked if he ever apologized to Lewinsky. He said he had apologized publicly to everybody in the world, including her, though he had not privately said sorry or spoken to her since the scandal.

"And nobody believes that I got out of that for free," Clinton said, frustrated. "I left the White House $16 million in debt. But you, typically, have ignored gaping facts in describing this and I bet you don't even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me. They were not insensitive to that."

He went on the attack, accusing Melvin of only presenting one side of what happened, and said somebody should ask journalists questions about how they formulate their questions.

"I dealt with it 20 years ago plus, and the American people—two-thirds of them—stayed with me, and I've tried to do a good job since then with my life and with my work. That's all I have to say to you," Clinton said.

Speaking to Trevor Noah on Tuesday, Clinton said the Melvin interview "wasn't my best hour, was it?"