That’s where this week’s episode of FX’s “Impeachment: American Crime Story” begins, as Ryan Murphy’s anthology revisits the first meeting between Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and Clinton (Clive Owen). The episode also depicts the days before and after the 1996 presidential election, making Clinton’s reelection a focal point.
Did Lewinsky really tell Bill Clinton she had “a huge crush” on him when they first met?
An early scene shows Monica dropping off papers in a nondescript West Wing office, adjacent to where the president — unbeknown to Monica — is working. Clinton steps out to introduce himself and compliments her sweater. Monica confesses she is nervous because she has “a huge crush” on him. “Well, that’s really flattering,” he tells her. “Because you’re beautiful. You light up the room.”
It’s true that Lewinsky confessed her crush to the president, though it may not have happened at their first meeting. Another scene also pulls from real events, as Monica flirts with Clinton by pulling up her pink thong as he walks by. Sarah Burgess, showrunner on the FX series, recently told The Washington Post that Lewinsky insisted the well-documented underwear detail be included because Lewinsky told her “everyone knows I did this.”
“Impeachment” draws on several details Lewinsky shared in A&E’s 2018 docuseries “The Clinton Affair” to establish how openly Clinton and Lewinsky flirted in the West Wing.
In that docuseries, Lewinsky recalled that Clinton pulled her into an empty office after noticing the thong peeking out of her pants. It was there she “blurted out ‘You know I have a crush on you?’” during a lighthearted exchange with Clinton. “And he laughed and smiled and then asked if I wanted to go into the back office. And I did,” Lewinsky recalled. “It was dark and he eventually asked me if he could kiss me and I said yes.”
“Impeachment” depicts a similar kiss between Lewinsky and Clinton.
Did Linda Tripp really encourage Lewinsky to continue her affair with Clinton?
Some of the details surrounding Lewinsky and Clinton’s affair are revealed in a conversation between Monica and Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) as the “Impeachment” timeline jumps ahead to their time at the Pentagon. As explored in last week’s episode, Lewinsky was reassigned there because her frequent visits to the Oval Office raised eyebrows throughout the West Wing.
“When that man focuses his attention on you, the world stops,” Monica tells Linda, recalling brushes with the president at public events — including a televised hug the two shared.
The scene also references a gift that Lewinsky gave Clinton: a Zegna tie. “Sometimes he would wear it to an event and then asked me if I noticed,” Monica tells Linda. The tie was one of six Lewinsky gifted the president according to a 1998 Washington Post story, which noted the extravagant gift (Zegna’s silk ties currently retail at just under $400) became part of the investigation against Clinton — because it was apparently still part of his wardrobe rotation.
“Clinton sported its bold gold and navy pattern on the day he left for China last month and during a televised ceremony at the White House on Aug. 6, which happened to be the very day Lewinsky testified before the grand jury,” The Post’s Roxanne Roberts wrote. “That got the attention of Ken Starr’s sharp-eyed prosecutors, who raised the issue during their interrogation of the president on Monday afternoon.”
Amid the many real-life details, “Impeachment” strongly suggests that Tripp encouraged Lewinsky to continue her affair with the president. The episode finds Monica waiting anxiously to hear from Clinton after his reelection in anticipation of his promise to bring her back to the White House. Eventually, Monica concludes that Clinton is no longer interested.
After gingerly pressing for details, Linda tells Monica that the affair “sounds like it’s absolutely not over.”
“It’s not done, Monica. What you’re describing is real,” Linda tells her. “You think you’re stuck in exile because he doesn’t have feelings for you? You have it backwards.”
“First of all, anyone who knows me knows that I find this atrocious, horrifying, unconscionable,” Tripp said in a 1999 interview on ABC’s “This Week.” Noting that she had “only known Monica peripherally” before learning about her affair with the president, Tripp said Lewinsky had “made it very apparent to me that she was a groupie, she had a huge crush on the president.”
Tripp said she hadn’t known the reason behind Lewinsky’s move to the Pentagon — and “Impeachment” makes it clear she didn’t at first — or that there would be any issue with Lewinsky returning to the White House.
“The notion that I went up to her and said, in November, or whenever it was, ‘The election’s over, now you can go back and have the affair,’ is ludicrous,” Tripp told the “This Week” panel.
Tripp reiterated this stance in a 2001 interview with “20/20.” “I spent a year telling [Lewinsky] this was a very sick situation,” Tripp told ABC’s Nancy Collins. “She deserved more than this.”
Did Lewinsky actually live at the Watergate?
In “Impeachment,” Monica tells Clinton that she lives in the Watergate, the scene of another very famous political scandal. A little too on the nose, perhaps, but this is 100 percent true.
“For at least part of her tenure as an intern in Washington, Lewinsky has lived with her mother in a family apartment at the Watergate Hotel,” noted a January 1998 Washington Post article. A month later, the Baltimore Sun recounted how Lewinsky hid from reporters in the “discreet” and historic apartments complex, where available amenities included “room-service to residents of the apartments, and shops — from a Valentino boutique to a liquor store — make door-to-door deliveries.”