Throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency, allegations of wrongdoing plagued his administration—from fraudulent land deals and misuse of office, to a cocaine smuggling operation disguised as a chicken business and even mass murder. According to a formerly withheld file released in late April by the Clinton Presidential Library (PDF), these conspiracies spread via a “media food chain” of propaganda videos and Internet newsletters before landing in the traditional media—and they eventually snowballed into the investigation and impeachment of the most powerful man in America.
In January of 1998, one day before the president delivered his State of the Union address, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton appeared on NBC’s Today show to defend her husband against claims that he’d conducted an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In the interview, Hillary railed against a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to ruin Bill. It echoed previous assertions made by the couple, including in a 1996 interview with Jim Lehrer about the Whitewater real-estate scandal. When Lehrer asked Bill if he believed that the Justice Department’s investigation into his Whitewater dealings was just a matter of his enemies “getting” him, Bill interjected, “Isn’t it obvious?”
At the time of Hillary’s Today show Lewinsky denial, independent counsel Ken Starr—who, two years prior, had replaced the lead counsel on the Whitewater investigation—called the First Lady’s conspiracy comments “nonsense,” and journalist Bob Schieffer even implied on CNN that the accusations were actually a conspiracy perpetrated by the left to discredit the president’s foes.
As it turns out, both the Clintons and their detractors were right—yes, the president had conducted an affair with Lewinsky. And yes, there existed a ring of powerful people intent upon the Clintons’ political ruin. Now, as the national conversation turns to Hillary’s probable 2016 presidential run and as Monica is once again splashed on the front pages thanks to her Vanity Fair confessional, The Daily Beast revisits some of the most influential Clinton haters and the scandals still festering in the shadows of the right-wing Internet.
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