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Was Bill Clinton abused as child? Hillary once blamed Monica Lewinsky affair on trauma

'He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse,' Hillary Clinton said about Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stand on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former President Bill Clinton and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stand on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It is interesting to look back at the aftermath of former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's sex scandal in the light of FX's new season of 'American Crime Story: Impeachment,' when Hillary Clinton went from one media outlet to the next, trying to rationalize her husband's extramarital affairs. In one of those interviews, she attributed Bill's infidelity to his alleged abuse as a child.

Speaking publicly for the first time in detail about the effect of the Lewinsky scandal, in 1999, after her husband was impeached but found not guilty of giving false evidence under oath, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, Hillary told the magazine, Talk, that her husband was "scarred by abuse" as a small child and that this may have affected his behavior as president.


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'He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse'

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) take the stage on the first day of the Democratic National Convention on July 26, 2004, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The former Secretary of State said until the scandal broke about his affair with Lewinsky, she thought he had "conquered" his unfaithfulness, suggesting that she had some knowledge of his illicit affairs with women outside of his marriage. "You have to be alert to it, vigilant in helping. I thought this was resolved 10 years ago. I thought he had conquered it. I thought he understood it but he didn't go deep enough or work hard enough," The Irish Times quoted Hillary as saying. 

She then went into the never-before-heard piece of information that then-POTUS had suffered childhood trauma due to abuse. "Yes, he has weaknesses, yes, he needs to be more disciplined, but it is remarkable given his background that he turned out to be the kind of person he is, capable of such leadership," she said. "He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse. There was terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother. A psychologist once told me that for a boy being in the middle of a conflict between two women is the worst possible situation. There is always a desire to please each one."

When she was asked if their marriage would be able to survive the strain of her standing for the Senate in New York, Hillary responded, "He is responsible for his own behavior whether I'm there or 100 miles away. You have the confrontation with the person and then it is their responsibility, whether it's gambling, drinking or whatever. Nobody can do it for you."

A photograph showing former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton at a White House function submitted as evidence in documents by the Starr investigation and released by the House Judicary committee September 21, 1998 (Getty Images /Handout)

She also reiterated the fact that Bill "has been working on himself very hard in the past year. He has become more aware of his past and what was causing this behavior." She added: "I don't believe in denying things. I believe in working through it. Is he ashamed? Yes. Is he sorry? Yes. But does this negate everything he has done as a husband, a father, a president? There has been enormous pain, enormous anger but I have been with him half my life and he is a very, very good man."

What did Hillary Clinton mean by 'abuse'?

George Stephanopoulos, who was political adviser to Bill until 1997, said Hillary's claim had caused "a lot of surprise in the White House". Initially, there were suggestions that Clinton might have been misquoted in the interview but her aides eventually admitted that this was not so. "The suggestion that the President was somehow the victim of child abuse is a pretty startling revelation," Stephanopoulos said at the time, adding that the POTUS' spokesman, Joe Lockhart, was going to have to explain what was meant by "child abuse."

Bill Clinton is featured in a photograph from his youth in Arkansas. The future President became a top saxophone player at his school and won first chair in the state band's saxophone section. (Photo by Liaison)

According to reports, Clinton most likely referred to a period back in 1950 when there is known to have been furious arguments between his mother, Virginia, and his grandmother, Edith Cassidy, over what would happen to Bill, who was four years old at the time. A widowed Virginia at the time was preparing to get hitched to a car dealer named Roger Clinton. But Edith disagreed with her daughter plan and told her she would seek custody of young Billy Blythe, as Bill Clinton was known at the time. Edith was bringing already Bill up while Virginia was away in New Orleans studying to be a nurse anesthetist.

Biographer Roger Morris, says the custody row "ignited yet another searing quarrel in the Hervey Street bungalow, Virginia screaming and frantically clutching at her son, the grandmother unusually and frighteningly reticent and composed". Edith was referred to as "Mawmaw" by Bill and she passed away in 1967, two months after his stepfather, Roger Clinton.