Clinton understood how the allegations of a sexual relationship with a White House intern could derail his presidency. He asked Dick Morris if he should lie to the American people. "They will forgive the adultery, but they won’t easily forgive that you lied." Morris concludes.
Tom Brokaw, NBC News (archival): The President, the intern, the accusations and the denials.
Reporter, NBC News (archival): The allegations that the President had an illicit affair with a 23 year-old intern and then attempted to cover it up blasted through the White House today. This scandal could unravel the administration.
Narrator: Over the next 72 hours, the story made its way around the world.
Caught unawares, Clinton’s cabinet members rushed to his defense.
Madeline Albright (archival): I believe that the allegations are completely untrue.
Man (archival): I’ll second that…
Peter Baker, Journalist: Aids who had worked for him for 5-6 years at this point are just on the floor. They, they can’t figure out what there’s supposed to think about this, much less what they’re supposed to do about this.
Robert Reich, Labor Secretary: I was convinced that Bill Clinton had been set up. He’s got all these enemies who are out to get him. He wouldn’t be so stupid as to jeopardize his entire Presidency. For what? No, that was not the Bill Clinton I knew.
Narrator: Clinton did confide in the one person he knew would not judge him.
Dick Morris, Political Consultant: When the Lewinsky scandal broke the President paged me and I returned the call. And he said, 'Ever since I got here to the White House I’ve had to shut my body down sexually I mean, but I screwed up with this girl. I didn’t do what they said I did, but I may have done so much that I can’t prove my innocence.'
And I said to him, 'The problem that Presidents have is not the sin, it’s the cover up and you should explore just telling the American people the truth.' He said, 'Really, do you think I could do that?' And I said, 'Let me test it, let me run a poll.'
So I took a poll and I tested popular attitudes on that and I called him back and I said, 'They will forgive the adultery, but they won’t easily forgive that you lied.'
The life of the president who saw himself as the heroic defender of the "shining city on a hill." Part of the award-winning Presidents Collection.
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