Monica Lewinsky is opening up for the first time in years about her relationship with former President Clinton, though even decades later she feels “uncomfortable” discussing it.
“I don’t talk about this very often, and I still feel uncomfortable talking about it because, I think it’s one of those things where, it’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president. Obviously, it did,” Lewinsky says in a preview clip released Tuesday for A&E’s “The Clinton Affair.”
“But I think in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time, the truth is, is that I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desired, desired me,” continues Lewinsky. “However wrong it was, however misguided, for who I was in that very moment at 22 years old, that was how it felt.”
The six-part documentary — which debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. — explores the ins and outs of the scandal that rocked the country.
Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern when she became romantically involved with the then-commander in chief in the 1990s. The series’ airing coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 1998 impeachment proceedings of Clinton.
Blair Foster, the doc’s director, says nothing was off-limits with Lewinsky in the more than 20 hours the A&E team spent with the Vanity Fair contributor. The filmmaker says even those who lived through and closely followed the Clinton and Lewinsky saga are likely to learn more about it.
“My first response was most people know how the story goes. But then I started on the project and very, very quickly I said, 'oh, I have no idea how this story goes.' It’s far more complicated and nuanced than a lot of people realize and remember,” says Foster.
The series includes interviews with countless players, including former independent counsel Ken Starr, former deputy White House press secretary Jennifer Palmieri, former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey and an array of journalists including Michael Isikoff, Peter Baker and more.
“I don’t know of any other project that has such a full collection of accounts from all aspects,” says Foster. The Emmy Award winner tells ITK that former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE declined to participate.
The three-night documentary also contains never-before-seen footage of Lewinsky on a receiving line in a white sundress shaking Clinton’s hand. “There’s footage of [Lewinsky’s] family visiting him in the Oval Office after a radio address. There’s footage of her wearing the blue dress, meeting with him in the Oval Office,” says Foster.
The 49-year-old filmmaker and "Get Me Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRoger Stone served with Capitol riot lawsuit during radio interview Lawyer for 17 Jan. 6 defendants says he's been released from hospital Democrats' Jan. 6 subpoena-palooza sets dangerous precedent MORE" producer says she didn’t know what to expect when meeting Lewinsky, who kept a low profile for years before recently re-emerging in the public eye as an anti-bullying advocate.
Foster says, Lewinsky, now 45, is “an incredibly smart, and charming, and bright person and I think how she has been depicted in the media at that time and in the intervening years — to say it’s inaccurate and a disservice to her is an understatement. I would say that, actually, about a lot of people in the series.”
“I do feel like looking at this series is really looking at kind of the origin story in a lot of ways of where we are now, and in particular the deeply partisan era that we find ourselves in,” says Foster.
“We’re living in very partisan times, and that everyone views things through party lens and not just a party lens but a very us-versus-them mentality.”
In a line in the documentary referring to 1998, Foster recalls, “somebody says everything was seen through this political lens, there was very little humanity. I thought, what if we look through everything not through a political lens but just as this lens of humanity? I feel like that was starting to erode then, and it certainly has continued to erode.”
Nonetheless, says Foster, “The Clinton Affair” should be “heroin for political junkies.”