I Had Affair with Lewinsky to Manage My Anxieties: Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton says Monica Lewinsky affair was to 'manage anxiety'

Washington: Former US President Bill Clinton claims that his affair with Monica Lewinsky was one of the 'things I did to manage my anxieties'.

Clinton said he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky to help him deal with the stress of being president as he opened up in a documentary released Friday about the scandal that led to his impeachment.

In the four-part Hulu series, Clinton says his sexual relationship with the then White House intern was a means “to manage my anxieties”, and that he felt “terrible” the affair came to define Lewinsky’s life.

"It was awful what I did," said the 73-year-old. "We all bring our baggage to life and sometimes we do things we shouldn't do." Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old at the time of the affair.

"You feel like you're staggering around - you've been in a 15-round prize-fight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here's something that'll take your mind off it for a while. Everybody has life's pressures and disappointments and terrors, fears or whatever, things I did to manage my anxieties for years."

Clinton’s sexual relationship with Lewinsky and subsequent denial about it under oath led to his impeachment in December 1998. He was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999 but the scandal came to define his presidency.

Monica with Bill at the Oval Office

He said in the interview: "I went and sat on the bed and talked to her. I told her exactly what happened, when it happened. I said I feel terrible about it. We've been through quite a bit in the last few years. I said I have no defence, it's inexcusable what I did".

Hillary tells the cameras: "I was just devastated. I could not believe it. I was so personally just hurt and I can't believe this, I can't believe you lied".

Hillary told Bill that he was the one who had to tell their daughter Chelsea, who was 18 at the time. He thought it was worse than telling his wife and he said that doing so was 'awful'.

Asked why he took such a risk with his family, his marriage and his country, Bill said he wasn't thinking about those things when he cheated.

Instead, the pressures of being in the White House led him to seek a distraction.

Bill did not explain exactly what he was referring to, but Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lucinda Franks has claimed that in 1999 Hillary told her Bill confessed that his mother abused him as a boy and caused him to become a sex addict.

The family went to Martha's Vineyard for a vacation and when they returned Hillary had decided to stand by her husband and fight his impeachment.

On the helicopter ride there Chelsea took them both by the hand.

An emotional Hillary says in the film: "When she did that, oh my gosh, I thought that's just so incredible, so strong and so wise".

Hillary described the marriage counseling sessions with Bill as "painful, painful discussions".

Bill said: "Counseling was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do but it was necessary. She deserved it, Chelsea deserved it and I needed it.

"I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's life was defined by it, unfairly I think.

"Over the years I've watched her trying to get a normal life back again, but you've got to decide how to define normal'.

The documentary was directed by Nanette Burstein whose previous work includes a film about eccentric internet entrepreneur John McAfee.

Both Clintons reflected on Hillary’s decision to stand by her husband.

She said she has been both criticised and praised over the years and suggested the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power had led people to view her decision differently.

“It is a funny time we live in, the kind of public opinion shifts and people say, ‘Oh, so noble, she stayed in her marriage’ to ‘Oh, it is so incomprehensible that she stayed in her marriage,’” Clinton said.

During the hour-long episode, Bill said he felt “so grateful” that his wife stuck by him.

“God knows the burden she paid for that,” said the former president.

He also contemplated how he had changed in the more than 20 years since the scandal.

“I am a totally different person than I was. Maybe it is just getting older, but I hope it was also going through a lot of this,” he said.

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