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This Day in History - 9.21.2011

The Power of a Few Words: The Clinton Scandal Polarizes Political Discourse


By Christopher Gunnerson

On this day in history, September 21, 1998, a Judiciary Committee agreed to release over four hours of testimony from President William J. Clinton’s hearings regarding the sex scandal in the White House. Clinton continually denied any involvement in the scandal. Later, his infamous words were recorded and remembered by the American people: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Despite the president’s denials, multiple television networks, radio stations, and internet sources were granted access to the testimony, and thus released news reports that portrayed the president in a negative light. While Republicans claimed the case illustrated the president’s habitual deceptions and moral failings, Democrats argued that the charges reflected a desperate attempt to unseat a popular leader by dragging him through the mud. The country was then, as now, polarized.

Although President Clinton was neither impeached nor convicted on any of the charges brought forth by Republicans, media coverage of the allegations damaged Clinton’s support levels throughout the end of his second term in the White House.

Since completing his terms in office, President Clinton has launched the Clinton Foundation, a global initiative that focuses on health care, economic development, and racial reconciliation in war-torn countries, and the Clinton Global Initiative, a global forum for teaching democratic governance in developing regions.

Despite this noble post-White House career, on this day in history we cannot forget his dubious denial and the power of a few words: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”