PBS Documentary Will Revisit Bill Clinton's Sex Problems

PBS will debut a new Bill Clinton documentary in its "American Experience" series next Monday (February 20). Executive producer Mark Samels clearly wasn't thinking like Beavis when he explained "The themes of William Jefferson Clinton's life -- promise and achievement followed by crisis and then comeback -- are the recipe for the secret sauce of great drama." 

The London Telegraph says PBS features new interviews with Clinton mistresses and former aides like Betsey Wright and cabinet secretaries like Robert Reich. One campaign chief in Arkansas recalled dealing with "25 women a day" who came into the office looking for Mr Clinton: 

Marla Crider, who worked with him in Arkansas and had an affair with him, described women as being "literally mesmerised". She said: "It was like flies to honey. I don't think there is any question Hillary was hurt. Monica Lewinsky gave him something that he needed at that time: to be adored."

...[Betsey] Wright told the programme-makers she felt betrayed because the president had lied to her and "to a lot of people" about the affair. Barak Goodman, the award-winning producer who made the film for America's Public Broadcasting Service, stressed that until now Ms Wright had been extremely loathe to speak about the incident. "She has been underground for many years because she was so close and so important to Clinton and felt very bad," he said.

Robert Reich, Mr Clinton's labour secretary, also expressed his sense of shock about the affair. He said: "He would not be so stupid as to jeopardise his whole presidency, I felt. That was not the man I knew."

Of course, PBS adds “balance” by bringing in the usual excuse-making journalists like CNN legal correspondent Jeff Toobin.

According to the leading American journalist Jeff Toobin, who contributed to the documentary, the Monica Lewinsky affair did not ultimately harm Clinton's image as much as many people predicted.

"The legacy of this scandal favours Clinton more than his adversaries," he said. "More Americans think that it was a trivial waste of time than think that he got away with something unforgivable."

Mr Toobin accredits this to "a long-established pattern that the longer a president is out of office the more kindly the public starts to feel about them", but also to Mr Clinton's resilience and to his "extraordinary political electricity".

He added: "In comparison, too, both with [George] Bush, with his foreign misadventures, and with [Barack] Obama's economic problems, the boom years of Clinton's presidency start to look a lot better."

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