Clinton, Lewinsky, and the religious right.

The Christian Right Thought the Lewinsky Scandal Would Turn the Country Against Clinton. They Were Wrong.

The Christian Right Thought the Lewinsky Scandal Would Turn the Country Against Clinton. They Were Wrong.

History in real time.
Sept. 19 2018 6:00 AM

God Mode

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


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.


Listen to Slow Burn via Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play.

Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Slow Burn every week. This week, we hear more from Neyfakh’s interview with Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated President Clinton. Plus, Neyfakh and Slate senior producer Mary Wilson discuss the making of Episode 6 and hear how a group of “former kids” remember the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

If you are logged in to your Slate Plus account, you can find this week’s bonus episode in the player below or in your members-only podcast feed. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Notes on Episode 6


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


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

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.

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.


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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.