The A&E docuseries The Clinton Affair premiered November 18, the first in a six-part series reexamining the former president’s controversial affair with Monica Lewinsky. The show marks 20 years since Clinton’s impeachment process began in December 1998, in which he was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky.
Though critics and prospective viewers may wonder what could be left to say about the decades-old scandal, The Clinton Affair is the first notable examination of the affair from the female perspective.
“Blair Foster, the Emmy-winning director of the series...pointed out to me during one of the tapings that almost all the books written about the Clinton impeachment were written by men. History literally being written by men,” Lewinsky wrote in a Vanity Fair essay published November 13. “In contrast, the docuseries not only includes more women’s voices, but embodies a woman’s gaze: two of the three main editors and four of the five executive producers are women.”
Several books published in the immediate aftermath of the scandal were, in fact, written by men, including Marvin Kalb’s One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Thirteen Days That Tarnished American Journalism and Jeffrey Toobin’s A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.
Previous accounts telling her side of the story were also written from the male perspective, from Andrew Morton’s authorized 1999 biography Monica’s Story to the 2002 HBO special Monica in Black and White, directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
Lewinsky underwent 20 hours of interviews for Foster’s The Clinton Affair. “Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could,” Lewinsky wrote. “Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.”
The affair has been revisited in recent years because of movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, which reframe Clinton’s abuse of power and then-21-year-old Lewinsky’s place in it. It acutely analyzes how she was blamed, villainized and slut-shamed - not only by the media and Republicans, but even by liberals who claimed the president was bamboozled into having an affair with her when she was a White House intern.
“I may not like everything that has been put in the series or left out, but I like that the perspective is being shaped by women,” Lewinsky wrote. “Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful. But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life—a time in our history—I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
The Clinton Affair aired through November 20 on A&E and can be streamed on aetv.com through the rest of this year. Read Lewinsky’s full essay: “Who Gets to Live in Victimville?: Why I Participated In a New Docuseries on The Clinton Affair.”
© Georgiana E. Presecky (11/20/18) FF2 Media
Photos Courtesy of Vanity Fair