Twenty years later, in a country shaken by political unrest and the fight for gender equality, we’re still living with the legacy of the Clinton presidency. The 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton rocked the country to its core and set the stage for the next two decades of polarization and controversy in America. Now, a new episode of Smithsonian Channel’s critically acclaimed THE LOST TAPES relives the scandal, using only contemporary film and audio to allow viewers to experience history without comment. The hour-long episode delves into the collective memory of America to pose the question: At a time when everyone took a side, would you take the same one now? THE LOST TAPES: CLINTON IMPEACHMENT airs Monday, October 29 at 9 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.
THE LOST TAPES: CLINTON IMPEACHMENT combines the relentless energy of the early days of the 24/7 news cycle with exclusive, never-before-televised recordings from historian Taylor Branch. Branch, the president’s interviewer and confidant, documented his thoughts after late-night sessions at the White House, capturing his impression of Clinton’s mindset and offering an insider’s perspective as scandal threatened to consume the Presidency. Clips pulled from news broadcasts and interviews highlight the infamous twists and dramatic forgotten moments of the scandal, including familiar faces, from Matt Lauer to Jeff Sessions, Bernie Sanders and the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. This unique blend of sources brings to life a startlingly familiar era in American history and a story that still lingers over the national conversation surrounding leadership, gender politics and ethics in public life.
In 1998, Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr requested permission to widen the scope of his Whitewater investigation to include whether the President had lied under oath in his deposition for Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit. After a federal court dismissed Jones’ suit, her lawyers appealed and submitted a list of other alleged victims of Clinton’s harassment, including White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Both Lewinsky and Clinton denied under oath that they had a sexual relationship, but the evidence indicated otherwise, leading Starr to investigate the possibility that Clinton had committed perjury. After receiving immunity, Lewinsky turned over evidence of the affair, and the President admitted he had indeed had inappropriate relations with her. In December 1998, the House of Representatives – led by Republican Newt Gingrich – voted to issue Articles of Impeachment, but on February 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted Clinton on all charges, 17 votes shy of removing him from office.