American Crime Story ‘Season 3, Episode 7
American crime story
The assassination of Monica Lewinsky
Photo: Tina Thorpe / FX
In later episodes, the character of Ann Coulter has come to characterize the Tory troublemakers who may or may not have organized the impeachment of Bill Clinton (although the existence of such a network is one of them. of the rare things that the Clinton and the real one coulter agree on). She’s there to connect the wrong people at the right time; she bursts champagne, the official drink of the Schadenfreude, while devouring the Tripp tapes. So it’s intriguing that Coulter is completely absent when Monica Lewinsky’s name moves from the White House’s forgotten intern list to above the waterline news. America’s media make the most natural villain, from cable news producers to late-night talk show hosts. Who is responsible for “The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky”? Coulter and the Clintons, Linda Tripp and Ken Starr too. But also everyone who watched Molly Shannon hook her up like an airhead on the SNL cold-open.
When the episode begins, however, we’re still in before times – before Drudge, before the beret pictures, before Bill called his mistress “that woman” on national television. The president gladly thanks a costume room for giving up their weekend to take his deposition. He swears to tell the whole truth, then begins to lie. Maybe WJC is lying when he says he’s never even met Paula Jones, and maybe he’s lying when he says he hasn’t harassed Kathleen Willey, but he’s sure he lies when he says he’s never been alone with Monica. The lawyers ask him if the two exchanged gifts, but Bill says he doesn’t remember because he receives and gives so many gifts; later he just says “yes”.
Bill’s confusion here is real, even if it’s not about the questions. A few hours ago, the President was writing the State of the Union in the Oval Office; now he’s just another bad husband struggling to figure out how his 24 year old girlfriend got to be so intrusive. In a gesture as stealthy as it is scary, Bill calls Betty into his office to confirm that she also remembers that she never left him and Monica alone. He kind of makes her wordlessly lie by using nothing but words. It’s devilish and a little awesome. He also asks Betty to call Monica, just to watch her.
But having been scared throughout a martini lunch in Georgetown with their lawyer Bill Ginsburg, Marcia won’t let Monica respond to Betty’s pages. They still don’t have Monica’s immunity agreement in writing, and warning the president doesn’t send out “cooperating witness” waves. More, News week Finally plans to publish Mike Isikoff’s story, after which all offers could be rejected.
CUT ON: News week decides to boost Isikoff’s story that the president gets a job in the private sector for his mistress. If I were Mike Isikoff I would set the newsroom on fire, so it seems super reasonable to me that he would just scream a little. “Sometimes it’s just not worth it to be the first one,” says its edgeless editor, about 15 seconds before Matt Drudge somehow finds out that the story is dead. What happens next is famous, or at least famous in DC: Drudge scoops News week to News week‘s own story, literally every outlet picks up on the allegations, and the moment that should have been Mike’s belongs to Matt.
We are in the middle of the season, and AccusedThe scenarios finally collapse. When Drudge clicks publish, Monica is tricked into cooperating with Starr, and the president’s perjury is all but confirmed. The world breaks up into dangerous shards, but instead of following the momentum, we drive into suburban Maryland to see Linda. She warns her children of the impending media storm without really telling them what she has done. Some people will think she’s the worst bestie since Judas, but she’s more of a John Dean figure for her confused mind.
Back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a bigger family reunion takes place. Bill finally breaks the news to Hillary (Edie Falco), who wants to know exactly what her husband means when he says Washington To post history is a lie. Does Vernon Jordan not find a job for his mistress, or does he not have a mistress in the first place? “Ask Betty,” Bill insists, like a child enlisting his little brother as a witness. Monica was confused and a little infatuated with him. That’s all. Betty “saw it all”. But of course Hillary can’t ask Betty! What would it look like if she asked Betty? Like a woman who knows how difficult it is to have time with the President, Hillary quickly switches from wifery concerns to those of work. She orders him to start putting out the fire.
Except his team can’t. It’s already too big. The cable news is complete coverage of Monica despite not having much to report other than her Pentagon photo. The White House press corps is furious at press secretary Mike McCurry’s evasiveness. Reporters surround the Watergate condo where the Lewinskys are staying, and Revlon very publicly cancels his job offer. Even Linda’s house is under surveillance. Linda! In a misjudged effort to get ahead of the story, Bill denies all allegations in a semi-hostile PBS interview, but that’s before he learns of the Tripp Tapes. Fortunately, he once had the idea of calling his old pal Dick Morris, who returns to Washington from where the political consultants go after being caught. suck a whore’s toe.
Bill’s second instinct is to contradict the PBS interview that ended five minutes ago (LOL), admit the matter, and draw the story aside. But Dick’s hasty polls don’t confirm the truth. America is not doing the business. It is perjury who will kill him. So Bill goes for Plan C: If you can’t complete the game, you have to win it. He does what the best liars do, creates a version of events that incorporates large parts of the truth. Monique really was obsessed with the president and his staff really made move her to the Pentagon when they noticed something untoward. She called around the clock and showed up uninvited to public events. Even poor Monica can be seen in the edgy story of the President of the United States and his unrequited young stalker.
It’s a story the American media are eager to explore. CNN publishes a botched package on Monica’s troubled family life and her summers at fat camp. Jay Leno and Letterman are ruthless; so is SNL. The high school drama team who took advantage of Monica as a teenager show up, and the cable news gives her a big old mic like it’s shocking a man who cheated on his wife with Monica could also want to ride the tails of this new Stalker Defense. Meanwhile, Monica is sitting in the Watergate watching everything from the sofa. She accepts Ken Starr’s immunity conditions as she needs the quickest path to get forgotten. Except now even Ken Starr doesn’t want what she has to offer. After Monica’s attorney Bill Ginsburg slams his way through all five Sunday morning shows in one day, Starr closes his deal.
“It’s been five news cycles,” Hillary complains to Bill. It is the unit of measurement even within their marriage. It is worth asking what this scandal would have looked like without television. What if he hadn’t been transformed from an event in the lives of real people into a moment of pop culture excess? If there weren’t any unearthed C-SPAN footage of Bill hugging Monica; if there was no video recording of Bill looking at a camera and insisting, “I haven’t had sex with this woman.” This woman. It was a scene conceived by Hillary and which always reliable Clinton’s sidekick Sid Blumenthal will address the nation on his own terms. Not a prime-time address that would validate Ken Starr’s claims by giving them oxygen, but a few passing remarks during a First Lady’s press on after-school programs for children, as disposable as rumors themselves. This woman. Perhaps the two most famous words Bill has ever said.
But what if it was just something a journalist wrote, much like his testimony? What if no one could go back again and again to see Monica’s beaming smile when the president greeted her on the rope? What if John Goodman’s Linda Tripp Print wasn’t such a hit that he came back to SNL to do it five times? Twenty-five years later, we can recognize Sarah Paulson’s Linda Tripp by her reflections helmet and we can spot Monica’s black beret in the grainy images. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal may have been the internet’s first big scoop, but Accused is a TV show after a TV show, brimming with visual familiarity.
• Bill Clinton really done say “weekends” a billion times when asked to be “alone” with Monica Lewinsky. An excerpt from her testimony: “I don’t remember, but like I said, when she worked in the legislative affairs office, there was always someone there on the weekends. I generally worked some on weekends. Sometimes they brought me things on the weekends. She – it seems to me that she brought me things once or twice on the weekend. In that case, whatever time she was there, drop her off, exchange a few words and leave, she was there. I have no specific recollection of the issues, of what was going on, but when Congress is there, we work all the time, and usually I was working one of the weekend days in the afternoon. “
• Bill Ginsburg really done appear on America’s Big Five Talk Shows One Sunday, a feat never before accomplished. The movement is now called, in some excessively DC circles, “the complete Ginsburg”.