Book: Bill Clinton Refused to Appear With Jay Leno Over Lewinsky Jokes

Media blogger Erik Wemple at The Washington Post relayed that Bill Clinton punished Jay Leno for cracking a good pile of Monica Lewinsky jokes, despite sending the former president an expensive bicycle as a make-amends gift.

That’s a revelation that comes from a New York Post roundup of a new book by Leno staffer Dave Berg (Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show).

President Bill Clinton was Berg’s white whale. After many rebuffs, the show sent him a $12,000 custom-made tandem bicycle as a get-well gift after his triple-bypass surgery.

It was returned, because Hillary, then a New York senator, could not legally accept gifts worth more than $50. (The two-seater bike was conceivably for her, too.)

When the show commissioned another pricey bike with only one seat, Clinton accepted, but still never appeared on the show. Aides told Berg that Clinton “simply didn’t like Jay’s never-ending Monica Lewinsky jokes.”

Wemple noted a study released in February found that Clinton was Leno’s No. 1 target, tallying 4,607 rips out of nearly 44,000 jokes between Leno’s ascension as host in 1992 and his retirement earlier this year. There were jokes such as "Monica Lewinsky told this month's Cosmo magazine that if it weren't for Bill Clinton, she would be a mom now, with two kids. Really? Not the way she was doing it."

There were also these tidbits from the Berg book:

A presidential candidate whom Berg doesn’t name nearly missed his cue because he was engaged in some private antics with his wife, recalls Berg. “All of a sudden, the door opened and the candidate emerged, looking sheepish as he straightened his tie and said nothing. His wife, whose hair was mussed and whose lipstick was noticeably smeared, was smiling as she wished her husband good luck.”

....Jessica Simpson would come on only if they paid for her hair and makeup — a tab she estimated at $18,000. The show refused. But when Sarah Palin agreed to go on after her 2008 defeat for vice president, the show coughed up $35,000 to fly her family and friends on a private jet from Anchorage, Alaska.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis