Slow Burn: The Clinton Impeachment

Season 2: Episode 6

God Mode

The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal sent the religious right into paroxysms of outrage. The rest of the country wasn’t convinced.

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About the Show

The saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment is rich with forgotten characters, surprising subplots, and opportunities to reflect on just how much America has changed over the past 20 years. Whether you’re well-versed in the tale of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, or you’re fuzzy on the details, this season of Slow Burn will take you further into the story than you’ve ever been.

From its origins in the Whitewater real estate controversy, the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, and the suicide of Vince Foster, Clinton’s near-removal from office was the culmination of a process that remains poorly understood—and continues to reverberate through our political system today.

While Season I of Slow Burn captured what it was like to live through Watergate, Season II offers a fresh reexamination of the choices, circumstances, and manipulations that nearly destroyed the 42nd president and forever changed the life of a former White House intern.

Read Leon Neyfakh’s introduction to Season 2.

Read the announcement on Season 3.

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Episode Notes

Some of the most withering criticism of Clinton came from a coalition of conservative activists whose political views were bound up with their faith. The influence of the Christian right within the Republican Party had been growing steadily since the Reagan years. When the Lewinsky story broke, the movement’s leaders pounced on it with righteous vigor.

In the sixth episode of our series on Clinton’s impeachment, Leon Neyfakh charts the religious right’s campaign against the president and how it failed.

Read a transcript of Episode 6.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

Former Kids

Leon’s full-length interview with Ken Starr, and a look back at what teens learned from reading the Starr report.

Notes on Episode 6

In researching this episode, we made use of the following sources.

Books

Baker, Peter. The Breach, Scribner, 2000.

Bennett, William J. The De-Valuing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our ChildrenTouchstone, 1992.

Bennett, William J. The Death of OutrageFree Press, 1998.

Gormley, Ken. The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, Crown/Archetype, 2010.

Kornacki, Steve. The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism, Ecco, 2018.

Morton, Andrew. Monica’s Story, St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Riley, Russell. Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2016.

The Starr Report, the Washington Post, 1998.

Starr, Ken. Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, Sentinel, 2018.

Toobin, Jeffrey. A Vast Conspiracy, Random House, 1999.

Film, TV and Radio

Goodman, Barak and Durrance, Chris. American Experience: Clinton, PBS, 2012.

Liasson, Mara and Siegel, Robert. All Things Considered: Clinton Interview I, NPR, Jan. 21, 1998.

Articles

As White House Keeps Up Criticism, GOP Defends Starr,” CNN, Feb. 8, 1998.

Baker, Peter and Locy, Toni and Schmidt, Susan. “Clinton Accused of Urging Aide to Lie,” the Washington Post, Jan. 21, 1998.

Bauder, David. “Nielsen Estimates 67.6 million Viewers for Clinton Speech,” the Times and Democrat, Aug. 20, 1998.

Bennet, James. “Tearful Clinton Tells Group of Clerics, ‘I Have Sinned,’ ” the New York Times, Sept. 12, 1998.

Berke, Richard L. and Van Natta, Don. “Clinton Friends, Aides Admit Feelings of Betrayal, Anger, Humiliation,” the New York Times, Aug, 18, 1998.

Carlson, Tucker. “Trashing Kenneth Starr,” the Weekly Standard, June 29, 1998.

Clinton Allies Defend President,” CNN, Jan. 25, 1998.

Clymer, Adam. “Starr Admits Role in Leaks to Press,” the New York Times, June 14, 1998.

Connolly, Ceci. “Gore Tests Wings Above Scandal’s Turbulent Air,” the Washington Post, Oct. 14, 1998.

“Corrections,” the New York Times, Jan. 23, 1998.

Deane, Claudia and Morin, Richard. “White House Sex Allegations Don’t Trouble Most People,” the Washington Post, Jan. 26, 1998.

Edsall, Thomas B. “Resignation ‘Too Easy,’ Robertson Tells Christian Coalition,” the Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1998.

Finn, Robin. “A Loyal, Oathful D.O.B. (Defender of Bill),” the New York Times, March 7, 2000.

From the Starr Referral: Clinton’s Grand Jury Testimony, Part 1,” the Washington Post, 1998.

Grove, Lloyd. “Hung Out to Dry?” the Washington Post, Aug. 18, 1998.

Goodman, Walter. “Rise of the Religious Right,” the New York Times, Sept. 28, 1996.

Goodstein, Laurie. “Christian Coalition Moans Lack of Anger at Clinton,” the New York Times, Sept. 20, 1998.

Goodstein, Laurie. “Clinton Selects Clerics to Give Him Guidance,” the New York Times, Sept. 15, 1998.

Henneberger, Melissa. “On the Right: Conservative Talk Radio Finding Cause for Revelry,” the New York Times, Jan. 29, 1998.

Kurtz, Howard. “After the Speech, Instant Media Spin,” the Washington Post, Aug. 18, 1998.

Lacayo, Richard. “When Is Sex Not ‘Sexual Relations’?” CNN, Aug. 17, 1998.

Landler, Mark. “Democratic Senator to Join Drive on Gangsta Rap,” the New York Times, June 30, 1995.

Lawrence, Jill. “For Bennett Brothers, Blood Thicker Than Politics,” USA Today, Feb. 9, 1998.

Lewinsky Has Spoken,” CNN, Jan. 26, 1998.

Lewis, Neil A. “Bennett Brothers on Opposite Sides in Scandal,” the New York Times, Feb. 2, 1998.

Locy, Toni and Schmidt, Susan. “Starr Examines Ex-Intern’s Career, Takes Aim at Critics,” the Washington Post, Feb. 25, 1998.

Massing, Michael. “Bennett’s Last Outrage,” the Nation, Dec. 21, 1998.

Poll: Too Much Lewinsky Coverage,” CNN, Jan. 29, 1998.

Pressley, Sue Anne. “The Roots of Ken Starr’s Morality Plays,” the Washington Post, March 2, 1998.

Rhee, Foon. “Bennett to U.S.: Demand More from Clinton,” the Charlotte Observer, Mar. 31, 1998.

Russell, Gregg. “Pandora’s Web?” CNN, Jan. 30, 1998.

Sammon, Bill. “Deeply Christian Starr Starts Day Jogging, Singing Hymns,” The Washington Times, Feb. 2, 1998.

Seelye, Katharine Q. “Relentless Moral Crusader Is Relentless Gambler, Too,” the New York Times, May 3, 2003.

Squitieri, Tom. “Bennett Brothers Begging to Differ,” USA Today, Jan. 18, 1999.

Toner, Robin. “The Right Thinkers: Some Voices in the New Political Conversation,” the New York Times, Nov. 22, 1994.

Williams, Scott. “A Jerry Bomb: ‘Springer’ Foes Confront Execs,” the New York Daily News, April 8, 1998.

Season Two of Slow Burn was produced by Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons. Research assistance from Madeline Kaplan. Bonus episodes for the season were produced by Jeff Friedrich and Mary Wilson.