The 7th episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story is appropriately titled “The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky.” If you know your history, then you know that she doesn’t physically die. But after the news story broke, she became a pariah and this episode takes you through just how fast the news cycle made her a household name. She became “That woman” in January of 1998, the timeframe of this entire episode.
Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) sits in the Oval Office when Bob Bennett (Chris McDonald) enters to ask Bill if he wants to go over the list of women one more time. Bill takes off his glasses and says “Don’t worry, I’m ready.”
Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light) escorts Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) to the trial and Paula looks very nervous. Susan won’t be able to join her but promises to wait outside and tries to empower her client by reminding her that she’s about to sit across from the most powerful man in the United States, look him in the eye and get justice. Paula enters and a video camera is pointed at the spot where the President will sit. Bill enters with a big entourage, including Bob Bennett, and he shakes Judge Susan Webber Wright’s hand (Maury Morgan) and thanks her for traveling all the way from Arkansas. Judge Wright swears Bill Clinton in and Jim Fisher (Teddy Swears) introduces himself. Bill Clinton denies that he ever made any advances or exposed himself to Paula Jones, saying he doesn’t even remember meeting her. This makes Paula Jones tear up, excusing herself and rushing to the restroom to vent to Susan about the way Bill Clinton is lying. Susan helps her dry her tears.
Back in the room, Paula watches as Jim asks Bill about Kathleen Willey and he denies ever harassing her. “Mr. Fisher, in my lifetime I have never sexually harassed a woman,” Bill says. “Mr. Clinton, do you know a woman named Monica Lewinsky?” Bill pauses for a moment before saying “I do.” Jim gets Bill to explain how he met Monica when she was an intern before asking if he was ever alone with her in the Oval Office. Bon Bennett objects and Judge Wright overrules. Bill pretends to not recall specific details about Monica and when he’s asked if she ever brought him things, he says on weekends, interns from the Legislative Affairs office would bring him things so it’s possible she was the one to do so a few times. When Jim asks about gifts he gave Monica, Bill asks for specifics and he mentions a hatpin and a book by Walt Whitman. “You know, I give people a lot of gifts,” Bill says, justifying that he often gives away items lying around the White House and wouldn’t be able to say exactly what he may or may not have given Monica. Jim asks if Monica ever gave him a tie. “I’ve been given a lot of ties,” Bill says, before adding “I believe she has given me a tie, yes.” Jim mentions that Monica has made statements about her relationship with him and he says “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, I’ve never had an affair with her.” Jim continues to ask specific questions and Bill Clinton tells him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “Sir, I think this will all come to light shortly and you’ll understand,” Jim says.
Bill Clinton exits the meeting as Bob congratulates him, saying he expects Judge Wright to throw the entire case out. Bill returns to the Oval Office and stares up at the portrait of George Washington.
Marcia Lewis (Mira Sorvino) and Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) meet Bill Ginsberg (Fred Melamed) at a restaurant to discuss Monica’s next move with the FBI. Marcia and Monica are both worried that Monica could be arrested and Ginsberg repeats that he’s never seen anyone serve prison time for sexual misconduct, but also says that Kenneth Starr is a “Mad man” and says he’s been holding Susan McDougall in confinement because she won’t tell Starr what he wants to hear about Whitewater. Monica says she really wants to call Betty Currie and Ginsberg again tells her not to, that it would ruin her deal. “Anybody that you talk to will get a subpoena, you’ve gotta cut them off for their own good.” Ginsberg thinks that the FBI needs Monica’s cooperation and that getting a good immunity deal will be easy. He describes this time they’re in as a “Sweet spot” before the press gets ahold of the story, something Marcia and Monica seemingly haven’t thought much about.
Mike Isikoff (Danny Jacobs) has a colleague at Newsweek read over his story about Monica, telling him it’s going to print tomorrow. His editor Ann McDaniel (Julie Pearl) calls him into her office to tell him that they’re holding the story, which upsets Mike. “We need more sourcing and then we’ll go for it in our next issue,” she tells him. Mike argues that the story will break in the next 24-hours and they have the chance to have it first. “Sometimes it’s just not worth being first,” Ann tells him. Mike scoffs as he leaves her office.
Bill Clinton approaches his secretary Betty Currie (Rae Dawn Chong) and asks her to join him in the Oval Office. He asks about her mother’s health, adding that she should let him know if they need anything. “Listen, Betty, something came up during my deposition that I wanted to talk to you about,” he says, informing her that he was asked about Monica and wants her help refreshing his memory. “As far as you recall, you were always with me and Monica when she came to visit, right?” Betty glances away momentarily and says “That’s right.” “So Monica and I were never alone together?”, Bill asks and Betty says no. “And she was interested in me?” Betty asks for clarification and Bill describes Monica as being attracted to him. “Yes sir,” Betty replies. Bill adds “And nothing happened because that would be wrong.” Betty agrees. “Good. I’m glad we both have the same recollection. Thank you.” Betty gets up to leave and Bill asks her if she could check in on Monica. “I’d like to know how she’s doing.”
Mike Isikoff lays awake in bed next to his wife Lisa (Lynn Adrianna Freedman) whose magazine reading is interrupted by a phone call. She picks up and it’s Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner) calling to speak to Mike. He can hear him on the end of the receiver and shakes his head no when his wife offers to see if he’s awake. She informs Matt that Mike is asleep and he says “I’m looking for a comment from him first thing. It’s about Newsweek spiking his story on the President’s affair with an intern.”
Monica is on her couch watching a news report about his trial with Paula Jones. Her pager buzzes and it’s Betty. Marcia shakes her head, pointing Monica to the bathroom out of paranoia that someone is listening to them. She turns the water on and whispers to her daughter, asking what Betty wants. Monica says it’s an emergency. “Bill must know.” Marcia wants this to end, holding out her hand and asking Monica to give her the pager. Monica does so reluctantly.
Bill Ginsberg and Monica arrive at the FBI and on the elevator ride, he reminds her to appear confident. Sol Wisenberg (Jared Gertner) takes Monica and she recognizes several agents in the room, including Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks) and Jackie Bennett (Darren Goldstein). She waits outside the meeting room with Sol, who makes small talk. Monica is distracted by Ginsberg yelling at the agents. Sole tells Monica that he met her friend Linda and that he went to her house. “She makes really good cookies.” Ginsberg comes out furious and says “We’re leaving now.” He tells Monica that the FBI upped their price and wants to investigate her entire family. “They want to know everything you know before they’re even willing to put anything on paper.” Monica asks if she needs to make phone calls. Monica asks if she has to make calls. As they get into the elevator, Ginsberg shows Monica a printout from the Drudge Report that breaks the story of the affair. “If you attempt to call Clinton now, he’s going to suspect that you’re wired. You’re radioactive.”
Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) is at home reading the Drudge Report on her computer. She goes to the living room where Allison (Emma Malouff) sits and turns off the TV, calling Ryan (Ryan Nassif) down. Linda informs her kids that the country is about to find out something about a friend of hers and that they need to be prepared. “A lot of people are going to be saying a lot of things about me. Some may be nasty. But others are going to cheer me on. They may call me a hero.” Linda likens herself to John Dean, President Nixon’s Chief White House Council who dared to stand up to the crimes he witnessed. “He risked everything to defend this country and there were people who pilloried him for it, but he did the right thing. I want you to know I did the right thing.”
Monica is awoken by the sound of sirens outside at 5:02 am, her anxiety running high. She goes to her front door to grab the morning paper and sees the headline “Clinton Accused of Urging Aid to Lie” as the top story of The Washington Post. She looks down and sees a copy outside every door on her floor. She recedes back into her apartment when a neighbor returns from walking her dog.
Bill Clinton sits in a chair in his living quarters with a copy of the same paper. He gets up and goes to the bedside of his wife Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco), waking her up. “Starr’s new gambit,” Bill says as he shows Hillary the paper. “He’s expanding his investigation into the Paula Jones fiasco.” Hillary is confused. “This time he’s saying I had an affair with an intern and that I asked her to commit perjury. Oh, and on top of that, I had Vernon set her up for a job. I mean, this girl was subpoenaed by the Jones lawyers and filed an affidavit saying nothing happened. Starr’s obviously gotten to her and convinced her to change her story.” Hillary asks Bill if he knows her and he says yes. “She worked in the West Wing and now she works in the Pentagon.” Hillary asks Bill if he has anything he needs to tell her and he says no. She asks more directly if anything happened and he denies that anything did. “Because if anything happened, you know it’s better that I walk…” He cuts her off, saying “And I would tell you. You know I would. Nothing happened.” He describes Monica as a “Sweet, goofy kid” who came to him a few times for advice. “Turns out she was kind of trouble.” He tells Hillary that Nancy and Evelyn moved her to the Pentagon due to her behavior. “I don’t think I was ever even alone with the girl. You can ask Betty, she saw the whole thing.” Hillary sighs and asks Bill if he’s told the White House staff yet. He wanted her opinion first and she tells him to go talk to them before the news story explodes. “I’ll be down in a minute,” she tells him. Bill starts to walk for the door, but hesitates and says “I’m sorry.” “For what?”, Hillary asks. “Well, this whole mess.”
Monica and Marcia watch the news about the affair and Monica is shocked that CNN already has footage of her shaking the President’s hand at an old event. They also have her Pentagon ID photo, which she hates. The phone rings and Marcia answers, Bill Ginsberg instructing her and Monica not to leave the apartment and to close the shutters and lock the doors. On the news, Monica sees the press surrounding the entrance of the Watergate apartments.
The press are also camped outside of Linda Tripp’s home. Allison sees her mother heading for the door and begs her not to leave, but Linda says she has to go meet with her new attorney. On her way out to her car, the press hits Linda with a lot of questions, but she continuously says “No comment” as she gets in her car and drives off.
Senior Advisor to the President Sidney Blumenthal (Patrick Fischler) watches the news at the White House when Press Secretary Mike McCurry (Scott Michael Morgan) enters and says the news cycle is so bad that they’re not even cutting to commercials. “How bad is it in the press room?”, Sidney asks, with Mike describing it as a nightmare. “It’s my job to respond to their questions and I have no idea what I’m supposed to say. Where is he?” Sidney simply says “With Hillary.” As they walk, Mike says the White House looks paralyzed and the longer the President takes to respond, the more guilty he looks. They come around the corner to find Bill Clinton, who says he was looking for them. He’s about to have back-to-back meetings with several major outlets and Mike suggests that he cancel, but Sidney says that would look like an admission of guilt. Bill says “Let them ask whatever the hell they want. I have nothing to hide.”
Monica tells her mother that she’s worried that Bill will have to resign and it’s all her fault. Marcia says that if he does resign, their problems are solved. On the news, Monica learns that Revlon has put out a statement confirming that Monica Lewinsky was referred by Vernon Jordan and that they have rescinded her job offer. Monica is in shock.
Mike McCurry enters the press office where everyone’s questions become a cacophony of noise. He announces that the President is about to sit down for an interview with PBS and he puts the live feed up on the monitors. Bill Clinton sits with Jim Lehrer (Stewart Skelton) who describes the situation to viewers. “I did not ask anyone to tell anything but the truth. There is no improper relationship,” Bill says, adding that he wants these allegations to be done so he can get back to work on important matters for the country. “I did not urge anyone to say anything that was untrue. That is my statement to you.” Jim asks why somebody would make this up if it’s not true. Sidney does not seem comfortable with the way the interview went. As it ends, the press shouts out questions but Mike just says “Thank you, I’ll be back tonight” and leaves.
Sidney Blumenthal tells Bill Clinton that the press are eating Mike McCurry alive and that they need to offer a clear explanation to the press. Bill says he’s already made his comment. “Yes, but it’s just what she said about you on the tapes, sir.” Bill Clinton pauses and looks confused. “Tapes?”
Linda and Allison watch CNN where the reporter refers to the President’s actions as perjury and obstruction of justice, which gives Linda a justified look of satisfaction. Allison asks her mother what will happen and Linda says “He’s going to have to resign.” Linda’s name comes out of the anchor’s mouth as they talk about the tapes that contradict Monica Lewinsky’s affidavit.
Betty escorts Dick Morris (Brent Sexton) to a small office to meet with Bill Clinton, who thanks him for coming and apologizes for letting him go. Dick says he understands and would have fired himself for getting caught sucking a prostitute’s toeas. “I messed up with this girl,” Bill confesses, adding that because he doesn’t know what Monica has said or what Kenneth Starr knows, it’s hard to form an appropriate response. Bill recalls that Dick once told him that if Richard Nixon had confessed at the start of Watergate, he likely would’ve remained President. He asks if he should do the same thing and Dick shows him a public opinion poll. It shows that the public would’ve forgiven the affair, but because he already lied under oath, they are unlikely to forgive perjury. “Even among your base, you’d have to resign,” Dick tells him. “You can’t tell the truth.” Bill reflects and says “Well, then it’s simple. We just have to win.”
Sidney is still having a hard time getting information out of the President, telling him that it’s weird that Monica goes into such graphic detail about him on the tapes. “Do you know this person at all?”, he asks Bill, who sticks to the same story he told Hillary. “I would talk to her on occasion, give her advice. I was just trying to help her out and I think she got the wrong idea.” He describes Monica as being so infatuated with him that her friends called her a stalker and she was desperate to sleep with him to change that narrative. “I can’t speak to every fantasy she had talking with her friend.”
Inside CNN, a technician is planning out segments about Monica when a reporter rushes in with a tape and puts it in the VCR. It’s the President going down a line getting people at an event, pausing to hug Monica, who wears a hatpin. “I remember seeing this in 1996 and thinking nobody is ever that happy to see Bill Clinton,” the man says, pleased that he found some good footage of Bill and Monica interacting in public.
In Burbank, California, a team of writers for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno pitch some very crass jokes about Monica Lewinsky, which make it to the air and into Monica’s own living room. As she watches, Marcia brings in a bouquet of flowers from Diane Sawyer, which has an offer for Monica to appear on 20/20. On CNN, a reporter has dug up dirt on Monica, including that she attended fat camp as a girl and that her classmates described her as an attention seeker. Monica and her mom are both shocked to see Monica’s first boyfriend, Adam Dave (Michael Moskewicz), who tells the reporter that Monica called him to brag when she first met Bill Clinton, describing shaking his hand as a sexual experience. “She’s attracted to older men. Monica’s nice, but she does tend to exaggerate and embellish stories to get attention.” The reporter talks about Monica’s childhood as troubled, citing her broken home. Monica looks to her mother who says “It’s okay, honey.” The reporter insinuates that nothing really happened between Monica and Bill Clinton, that she simply fantasized about it. “No one will believe that,” Marcia says. “Everyone will believe that,” Monica contradicts. She sees the footage of her with Bill from 1996.
Linda Tripp is also glued to her TV, watching Roseanne Barr interview an over-the-top parody of Linda and making fat jokes about her. As Linda watches, she opens her mail, receiving a hand-written death threat.
Monica watches Late Night with David Letterman, who also makes horrible jokes about her. Marcia grabs the remote and turns the TV off. “Enough, I’m not going to watch that anymore.” Monica says it’s her only source of information and when her mom says it’s all lies, Monica says none of it is a lie. “I did have an affair with Bill and I did go to fat camp and my parents did break up and I guess one night I told Linda that you raised me in a house of lies and now the whole world knows that too.” Marcia says a lot of kids have that same history, but it doesn’t calm Monica’s anxiety. “I messed up so bad and I can’t turn off the TV because if I turn off the TV, I’m just going to imagine the horrible things people are saying about me and that’s worse.” Marcia offers to draw Monica a bath, but all she wants to do is sit and watch the news cycle. Marcia calls Bill Ginsberg and says “This has to end right now.” He tells her he’s close to reaching an immunity deal for Monica and that he will need Monica to come to the office with him. Marcia is worried that if Monica goes outside she will be mobbed. The call is interrupted by Monica, who calls her mom over to watch as Andy Bleiler (Payson Lewis) and his wife Kate (Nicole Leanne Nelson) take the podium at a press conference. “That creep took advantage of you when you were young,” Marcia says, appalled that Monica’s former teacher who had an affair with her is speaking out. Andy says that he made a mistake having an affair with Monica, a student of his, but that afterward, she wouldn’t leave them alone and let them heal as a couple. “She became obsessed with us. She convinced herself that we were in love, but Monica has a history of twisting the facts.” A reporter asks if Monica had a Fatal Attraction, which makes Kate giggle. Marcia turns off the TV in anger.
The next morning, Marcia makes Monica up for her return to the FBI with Bill Ginsberg. “You walk straight to the car, it will be over before you know it.” They descend down the elevator and Ginsberg meets them in the lobby. A police barricade tries to keep the press away from the car, but as soon as Monica steps outside they break through. She gets in the car before the scene turns too ugly and Marcia holds her hands together as if she’s praying as they drive away.
Mike Emmick and Jackie Bennett sit at a table with Bill Ginsberg and Monica. They pass her a document to sign for her immunity deal. “Judge Starr will sign that as well and we’ll fax it back your way. We’re done here.” When Monica gets back to her apartment, Marcia tucks her into bed and says “I know you don’t believe me, but it’s all going to be okay now.” She kisses Monica’s forehead as her daughter rolls over to sleep.
Linda brings popcorn into the living room as Allison and Ryan watch Saturday Night Live. Ryan says he wants to see who plays Monica and Allison suggests they not watch it. Molly Shannon appears in the sketch as Monica, seen checking into the Ritz Piano Bar. The camera pans over and John Goodman is seated at the table dressed as Linda Tripp. Allison grabs the remote to turn it off, but Linda stops her. “No, it’s funny,” Linda says, her eyes beginning to glaze. Later, Allison finds Linda drinking brandy alone in the kitchen. Allison asks her mom if she’s okay and she says she’s fine, telling her daughter that when she was in high school, the popular kids called her Gus. “It was a running joke my whole junior year. People would ask me why and I’d pretend I didn’t know, but I did. I knew the whole time. Gus Johnson was a big famous basketball player, a gigantic man… The point is, I’ve been teased my whole life. I can take it, doesn’t matter.” Allison tries the brandy and tells her mother it’s disgusting. Linda takes her daughter’s hand. “Honey, I love you. It’s going to be okay.”
Kenneth Starr (Dan Bakkedahl) watches Bill Ginsberg on the news talking about the case. “What Kenneth Starr and his prosecutors did to Monica Lewinsky is completely unethical,” Ginsberg says, enumerating the threats they made to his client. “We’re just waiting for Ken Starr’s office to call and make an offer.” Starr calls Mike Emmick to ask about the agreement they made with Monica. “All good, she signed, her council signed,” Mike says. “Have we signed?”, Starr asks and when he finds out he hasn’t yet, he tells Mike that he’s not going to grant Monica immunity because her lawyer is on national TV signaling to the President that Monica won’t say anything. “I’ve made up my mind, no deal.”
Hillary enters the Oval Office in a periwinkle suit to talk to Bill about his upcoming State of the Union address. She tells him that the public doesn’t understand who Kenneth Starr is and that he can help form their opinion. “The people want to hear from Bill Clinton… We could lose everything that we’ve fought for. The only way we do this is we meet it head-on. You deny it and you throw it back at Starr like the garbage it is.” Bill asks her what he should do. “Sid and I have a plan.”
As Monica watches the news, Marcia accepts a phone call from Bill Ginsberg. We only hear her side of the conversation. “What are you talking about? She signed it, you signed it, he can’t do this to us. Why is this happening?” Monica seems to understand what’s happening as she stares into space.
Sidney escorts Hillary to the press room, telling her it’s a bigger crowd than normal. We see that Monica and Linda are both tuning in. Bill stands at Hillary’s side as she says “I am very pleased to introduce a surprise guest, the greatest champion of working parents and working families that the United States has ever known, my husband Bill Clinton.” Bill thanks the attendees for working with them for the past twenty years, talking about how every child needs someplace to go. “I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech and I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me, I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
Linda Tripp and Allison watch in shock. Bill Clinton shows no hint of even thinking about resigning. Linda’s mouth is agape as the President repeats that he never asked anyone to lie and that those allegations are false.
Monica sits next to her mother on the couch watching. A tear rolls down her cheek.
Bill Clinton finishes his speech. “I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.” The room erupts in applause.
Impeachment: American Crime Story returns on October 26th with “Stand By Your Man” on FX.