4:54pm PT by Patrick Shanley
Bill Clinton Responds to Monica Lewinsky Comment Controversy: "I Was Mad at Me"
Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday night joined Stephen Colbert on CBS' The Late Show, one day after a contentious interview on NBC's Today show.
While Clinton was promoting his new novel with author James Patterson, NBC News' Craig Melvin asked the former president, in an interview that aired on Monday's Today, about his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky that came to light in 1998. "I dealt with it 20 years ago, plus," said Clinton. "And the American people, two-thirds of them stayed with me. And I've tried to do a good job since then, and with my life and with my work. That's all I have to say."
When asked by Melvin if he would handle the situation differently today, Clinton replied, "If the facts were the same today, I wouldn't." Clinton also said that he had never privately apologized to Lewinsky and when asked if he thought he owed her an apology, responded, "No, I do not."
On Tuesday, when asked by Colbert if he would like a "do-over" on his answer and whether he thought it was a "tone-deaf" response, Clinton answered, "When I saw the interview, I thought that because they had to distill it, it looked like I was saying I didn’t apologize and I had no intention to, and I was mad at me."
He continued, "Here’s what I want to say: It wasn’t my finest hour, but the important thing is that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago and I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people. I meant it then, I mean it now. I’ve had to live with the consequences every day since. I still believe this #MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and should be supported."
Colbert pressed Clinton on the issue, saying, “You seem surprised that the question would come up.” The CBS host went on to say that one reason it may have been seen as “tone-deaf” was because the Me Too movement doesn’t discriminate based on the time passed in such allegations and Clinton’s scandal with Lewinsky was, to Colbert, “the most famous example in my lifetime.”
“The question had been asked by other people in this context and I didn’t mind at all,” Clinton responded. “I didn’t like this one because it started with an assertion that I had never apologized.”
Clinton went on to call for Americans to vote in primaries, and noted "Vladimir" interfered in the 2016 election, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Watch the full interview in the video player, above.)
Clinton also addressed the Today interview during his Tuesday appearance for a New York Times TimesTalks event. "I should have remembered that man is young enough to be my son,” he said of Melvin. "I messed up, and I own that, and no mistake by anybody else — including that young man aggressively saying I didn’t apologize — can justify the fact that I got mad when I should have been saying, 'I got a chance to tell a whole new generation that the journey I’ve been on the last 20 years is one the country has to take.'"
In response on Wednesday, Melvin and Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie stood by their interview on the NBC News morning show and released the full, 22-minute conversation with Clinton and Patterson online, encouraging viewers to watch the uncut conversation.
June 6, 6:50 a.m.: Updated with TimesTalk quotes, Today segment.