Why was Bill Clinton impeached? Is American Crime Story series 3 a true story - and who is Monica Lewinsky

(Photo: Tina Thorpe/FX)(Photo: Tina Thorpe/FX)
(Photo: Tina Thorpe/FX) | Tina Thorpe/FX

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Impeachment: American Crime Story charts the story of Bill Clinton and his illicit, two-year relationship with 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky

In 2016, Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Run of His Life: The People v OJ Simpson, was adapted for television and became the first series of American Crime Story, gripping audiences on both sides of the Pond.

Creators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski followed it up by using Maureen Orth’s Vulgar Favours as the foundation of The Assassination of Gianni Versace, chronicling the designer’s murder at the hands of Andrew Cunanan.

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This time, Alexander and Karaszewski are probing the murky world of US presidential politics and have returned to source material provided by Toobin, with his book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.

As Toobin’s title has probably already given away, the third series of American Crime Story - simply subtitled ‘Impeachment’ for the purposes of brevity - explores the scandal involving US President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Impeachment about?

Over 10 episodes, it charts the story of the Democrat Commander in Chief and his illicit, two-year relationship with 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The first episode begins in January 1998, the year the affair was made public, and Lewinsky is invited to meet Linda Tripp. However, in reality, it’s a trap laid by the FBI, who take her to a hotel suite where she is set to be interviewed by the Office of Special Counsel.

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The action then shifts to five years earlier, and Tripp is moved to the Pentagon after deputy White House counsel Vince Foster’s suicide, and she plans to write a tell-all novel about his life and death.

Meanwhile, Paula Jones pursues litigation against now-President Bill Clinton, demanding he apologise for his unwanted advances when he was governor of Arkansas, and files a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

Back in 1996, Tripp meets Lewinsky, who has been recently transferred from the Pentagon to the White House and learns she is involved with the President.

Why was Bill Clinton impeached?

Anyone with even a passing interest in the news at the time couldn’t miss the media coverage after The Washington Post initially broke the story in January 1998.

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He famously said in a press conference: “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, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false.”

In August the same year, Clinton was forced to admit in a grand jury testimony that he and Lewinsky had an “improper physical relationship”, and by the end of the year, the Republican-held House of Representatives voted to issue two Articles of Impeachment, and a 21-day trial ensued.

Who is Monica Lewinsky?

(Photo: FX)(Photo: FX)
(Photo: FX) | FX

Clinton was acquitted of all charges and he stayed in office, while Lewinsky’s name was forever associated with the notorious affair; she has gone on to become an activist, fashion designer and TV personality.

Actress Beanie Feldstein has said she wanted to “redeem” Lewinsky while playing her.

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Feldstein said “it was deeply important to me to unravel that and redeem” Lewinsky, who was heavily involved in the series and served as a producer.

The women met in person once, days before the pandemic brought the world to a halt, but have since developed a close friendship.

Speaking at a virtual Television Critics Association (TCA) panel, Feldstein said: “She was incredibly giving and I made it very clear to her when we started filming that I saw myself as her bodyguard.”

Executive producer Brad Simpson said there is a generational divide over how Lewinsky is viewed and he hopes the series will challenge the public’s perception of her.

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He said: “We had an event in New York and there were 17-year-olds there and they lined up to meet Monica Lewinsky because she represents something very different to them.

“The things she speaks out about, her platform, she was the first person who was publicly shamed by the internet, so I do think there is a generational divide.”

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