What Is the Infamous Monica Lewinsky Cigar Scandal?

Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton

Getty Monica Lewinsky's story is reexamined in "Impeachment: American Crime Story."

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” aims to paint a more nuanced portrait of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and the resulting impeachment process.

As the center of a salacious national news story, Lewinsky endured public shaming at the hands of the press. Today, she is an anti-bullying social activist. Her TED Talk, “The Price of Shame,” has more than 12 million views on YouTube.

Lewinsky is an executive producer of “Impeachment: American Crime Story.” According to an NPR review, some of the titillating details that the press fixated on in the late ’90s are missing from the television series. There are “only passing references to that blue dress” and no sex scenes – especially none with cigars.

So, what’s the real story behind the cigar that made headlines during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal?

The Cigar Scandal Explained

Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s report to the House on President Bill Clinton includes testimony from Lewinsky about a sexual encounter involving a cigar. According to the testimony, Clinton inserted a cigar into Lewinsky’s vagina during an encounter on March 31, 1996. Clinton then put the cigar in his mouth and said, “It tastes good,” according to the report.

Rumors about Lewinsky’s testimony, specifically the cigar anecdote, began to swirl in August 1998. The first publication to mention the cigar was The Drudge Report, a conservative-leaning news aggregation website founded by Matt Drudge.

The Drudge Report story also claimed that Yasser Arafat was waiting for the president in the Rose Garden while the encounter took place inside The White House. According to the Pew Research Center, nothing in the Starr Report supports this claim.

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” doesn’t depict this infamous cigar rendezvous, nor any other sex scenes. The show’s writer Sarah Burgess told The Wrap this was an easy decision for her. She felt that Americans already knew enough about the graphic sexual details of the case.

Burgess said depicting sex scenes “never felt like the move to me. And I don’t remember … any intensive discussions about doing it another way.”

‘Impeachment’ Features Another Infamous Incident

Although there won’t be sex scenes, “Impeachment: American Crime Story” does feature another infamous incident: Lewinsky lifting her jacket to give Clinton a glimpse of her thong while at a party at the Chief of Staff’s office.

Writer Burgess initially kept the moment out of the script for fear of upsetting Lewinsky, but Lewinsky insisted on including it.

“Listen, I would’ve loved to have been really selfish and said, ‘That’s great that you guys think we don’t have to show that, fantastic,’ but I’m incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story,” Lewinsky told The Hollywood Reporter. “So, ultimately, I felt two things: One was that I shouldn’t get a pass because I’m a producer; and two, that it was unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable.”

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” premieres on September 7 at 10 p.m. Eastern time on FX. New episodes will air weekly. Episodes will also be available on Hulu the day after their premiere.

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