Podcasting’s rockstar moment arrived on October 3, 2014, with the release of Serial. Chatty and spritzed with twists, this addictive revisiting of the murder 15 years previously of a Baltimore school girl become an instant phenomenon – and the urtext for the true-crime wave to follow.
But what about the victim, 18 year-old Woodlawn High School student Hae Min Lee? That spiky question glinted at the heart of part one of Amy Berg’s The Case Against Adnan Syed (Sky Atlantic). Berg, whose filmography includes documentaries about the West Memphis Three and child abuse rings in Hollywood, trained an unflinching eye on the Lee murder investigation and the circus that rolled into town with Serial.
By the time that many viewers tune into HBO’s new documentary series, The Case Against Adnan Syed, many will be coming to the story with preconceived ideas about who Syed is and whether he belongs in prison. In some ways, the new documentary is indeed an extension of the phenomenally popular first season of Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial, which offered intrigued listeners an immersive look at Syed’s murder conviction for the death of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. But while ads for the docuseries might lure viewers in with the promise of new evidence that will help to determine the truth, director Amy Berg, whose Catholic sex abuse doc Deliver Us From Evil was nominated for an Oscar, is ultimately less interested in drumming up scandal than in investigating deeper into the unanswered questions of the case. While The Case Against Adnan Syed does provide viewers with a fascinating and important new look at Syed’s case, Berg’s careful work also fuses our insatiable drive for the truth with compassion for everyone who was touched by Hae Min Lee’s murder.
Still, how do you de-sensationalize a story that has already gone viral? Today, we are more connected by social media than ever before, and fans of the original podcast series are already chomping at the bit to fight over whether or not they believe that Adnan did it. The spectacle of true crime stories in an age of hashtags is always a little disconcerting. On the one hand, podcasts like Serial and documentaries like The Case Against Adnan Syed have the potential to illuminate the very real and myriad problems of our criminal justice system and encourage essential social change. On the other, the ways in which armchair detectives can intrude on real life cases can sometimes veer into seeing other people’s pain as entertainment.
One way that Berg contends with this phenomenon is by confronting it directly – in interviews we learn how, for Adnan’s family, Serial was a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness for the case and to work towards exonerating Adnan’s name. In contrast, we learn that for Hae’s family, the internationally renowned podcast series often felt painful in that it also prolonged the trauma of losing a loved one; what they wanted was a quick resolution to the crime, rather than the constant reminder of her death. Both family and friends express concern that aspects of the popular series seemed to flatten their beloved friend and family member into someone who had no identity other than a crime victim. In one particularly poignant moment, Hae’s friend, Aisha Pittman tells viewers, “I want to make sure that people remember that this was a person that lived and had a life and not just become so focused about, ‘this is an interesting case.’ It’s people’s lives.”
In refusing to shy away from the less savory aspects of our cultural obsession with true crime, Berg deliberately uses the camera’s lens as a way to illuminate the humanity of everyone who was affected by the murder, including Hae herself. When we are introduced to excerpts from Hae’s diary, the viewer is immersed in teen girl drawings, swirls of hearts and stars that capture the young student’s hopes, dreams and fears. By making Hae’s art come alive on the page, we see a clearer image of a young woman’s humanity, which helps viewers to see Hae as more than just her yearbook image and prom pictures. Berg also wisely resists gruesome imagery or anything that smacks of victim blaming. The viewer is never shown too much when we learn key details about how Hae and Adnan would sneak off to motels without their conservative parents’ knowledge, nor do we see very much when we learn about how Hae’s body was found.
This same type of gentle restraint is utilized as Berg conducts new interviews with family and friends who were affected by the crime. While audio can absolutely be used to emotional effect, there is something uniquely compelling about seeing video footage of testimony, which allows us to linger more closely on the profound sense of grief and confusion that has shaken everyone involved in the case. We see lips tremble and eyes twitch and tears rolling effortlessly down cheeks that have aged considerably since the time of Hae’s death. Berg allows emotion to come naturally, rather than prodding or cajoling her subjects. If one of the most famous aspects of Sarah Koenig’s work in season one of Serial was the way in which she probed her own feelings and reactions to the case. Amy Berg makes the opposite choice, in the first three installments at least, to make herself relatively invisible. In doing so, she allows a gentler unfolding of the story, one that is not only invested in the drive for justice, but the subtleties of grief and the ravages of time.
In this same way, in The Case Against Adnan Syed we don’t just hear individuals grapple with memory and loss; we see that grappling on the screen. The result is a viewing experience that insists on ambiguity, even while teasing at a new resolution that many very well help to free Adnan from his life sentence. One thing is for sure: as the series progresses we see the many ways that police and prosecutors eager for a quick conviction ended up mishandling or actively misrepresenting important information. In particular, it’s shocking to see how much the cellphone records that were used to piece together major aspects of the crime simply weren’t based on reliable information. Likewise, it’s incredible to see just how many of the people who spoke to police and the prosecution team felt manipulated and coerced. At one point, Adnan’s parents and brother reflect on a particularly heartfelt apology they received and discuss how they consider many of the witnesses and experts who were used to push a particular narrative about Adnan’s guilt to also be victims of this case.
In the end though, Berg’s film does more than investigate deeply into a 20-year-old crime. It offers a critical and compassionate look at a story of young love and murder that briefly became a worldwide sensation, while also giving voice to the many people who insisted on continuing to fight for justice long after that very frenzy began to subside.
The Case Against Adnan Syed starts on HBO in the US on 10 March.
True crime documentaries, particularly those about cold cases and miscarriages of justice are coming at us thick and fast. Few are as anticipated, though, as HBO’s The Case Against Adnan Syed, a four part doc recapping and expanding on the story told by Sarah Koenig in 2014 podcast Serial. While podcasting itself wasn’t exactly new at the time, Serial became a phenomenon and was for many something of a ‘gateway podcast’ converting the uninitiated to the medium as the story unfolded week by week. Did Adnan do it? Was Don’s alibi legit? What’s up with Jay? And what the hell was going on with The Nisha Call?
If you have no idea what any of those questions mean, don’t worry – The Case Against Adnan Syed works just as well for the uninitated as die hard Serial fans.
Serial explored the case of the murder of 18-year-old school girl Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend 17-year-old Adnan Syed for the killing. At the time Serial was first broadcast Syed was serving a life sentence for the crime though there was a lot to suggest he wasn’t guilty – or at least that the evidence presented at trial was sketchy and incomplete.
It’s lawyer and family friend of the Syeds Rabia Chaudry who first brought Koenig’s attention to the case and it’s Chaudry who’s front and centre in this series which works as a companion piece and a continuation focusing on progress in the case and attempts to get Adnan a re-trial. While we glimpse Koenig in ep one and hear audio extracts from Serial, The Case Against Adnan Syed uses its own range of voices to build the story.
New interviews with Hae’s best mates, Adnan’s family and friends as well as witnesses for the prosecution Jenn Pusateri and Krista Myers are fascinating and add extra depth to the story. And while Jay – the State’s key witness – isn’t a featured talking head, extra info from an ex-girlfriend of Jay’s is one of the most scintillating moments.
While some of the intimacy of Koenig purring ‘noted, right?’ in your ear is lost, instead we get a wider contextual picture of the Maryland town where the murder occured, the school that Hae and Adnan attended and more crucially, a sense of who Hae actually was as a person. Extracts from a journal of hers, love letters between her and Adnan, photos and even animated segments attempt to bring her to life as a smart, attractive, creative overachiever and explore how the pressures from the Korean community Hae lived in and the Muslim community of Adnan’s affected their relationship.
Expertly digesting and condensing the key facts of what happened and the people involved, the doc is clearer and easier to follow than Serial. Distance from the podcast, and of course revelations that have surfaced since, mean for for example, there’s no air time given to ‘butt dials’ – at least by the end of episode three, which is as much of the series as was available to us for review.
You absolutely don’t have to have listened to Serial to enjoy the doc but there’s lots here for fans of the show too including post-podcast developments, input from new players and most of all the chance to hear from – and actually see – most of the people whose voices and testimony featured in Serial, really bringing the story to life.
We say story, but of course, it’s important to remember this isn’t fiction. Director Amy Berg, who also made West Memphis three doc West Of Memphis, with Peter Jackson on board as producer, tries to keep the series grounded in the fact that these are actual people’s lives. The post-Serial fan theories and negative online treatment of Chaudry and Asia McClane, a possible new witness for the defence, is a valuable strand, while archive clips of Hae Min Lee’s mother are just heartbreaking.
Post Making A Murderer and The Staircase many true crime fans have grown somewhat cynical about heavy bias in documentary portrayals of ongoing cases. Facts are sometimes omitted, theories skirted over and the opinion of armchair detectives given too much credence. From the off, TCAAS doesn’t hide its allegiances to Adnan and most of the voices we hear believe Adnan is innocent or are at least unsure whether he did it or not. But that doesn’t mean there’s no scope for doubt. Because the fact is, we don’t know whether Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee or not and the question here, for now at least, seems to be less whether he did it, and more whether he got a fair trial.
With the case still ongoing there’s plenty of scope for a second season. Though not perhaps as sensational, strange and packed with larger than life figures as MAM nor as shocking and final as The Jinx, The Case Against Adnan Syed perhaps has the best chance for a positive outcome in the future (if you think Adnan is innocent at least). At the very least it’s an engrossing look into a tragic death and a legal system badly in need of reform.
The Case Against Adnan Syed debuts on HBO on 10 March at 9pm. The documentary will debut in the U.K. via Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW TV on 1 April.
The Baltimore murder case that launched the true-crime podcast craze will be under scrutiny again, starting March 10, when HBO launches its four-part documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.
The pay cabler is revisiting and updating the nearly two decades old case “get closer to the truth,” director Amy Berg told TV critics at TCA.
Syed was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 when she was an 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the case that was presented in 1999 and the outcome,” Berg told TV critics.
After listening to Serial, she said she felt “very frustrated” and set about “trying to understand what actually happened and investigate the original investigation.”
“Three-and-a-half years later, I still feel very frustrated that police detectives didn’t do their jobs in a more thorough way. We probably wouldn’t be sitting here today if there was more of an investigation done at the time.”
“They did not even take color photos of the autopsy,” she criticized.
Lee’s family would not to participate in the project but they also had turned down Serial’s creator. But Berg did speak to a family friend speaking on their behalf and she got access to the victim’s journal..
Calling it important to bring Lee “to life” the series begins with journal entries dramatized via animation. “She started the journal when she mat Adnan, and the last entry is the night before she disappeared,” Berg said, explaining she wanted to make the series accessible for those who had not watched Serial, but fresh for people who did.
Syed friend Rabia Chaudry, who advocated for him in the podcast and in HBO’s project, credits both with changing perceptions about the case.
“In the era of… the highest anti-Muslim sentiment in this country ever, this is a story that has resonated across the hearts of this country,” she said.
“People don’t care that he’s a young American Muslim guy. His religion all of a sudden didn’t matter so much. Serial was able to do that. This documentary is…going to do it even further.”
Five years ago, Chaudry said, Syed came to terms with the fact he probably “would leave prison in a coffin.”
His conviction, however, was overturned in 2016, though a new trial has yet to be set as it bounces back and forth in appeals court.
Even so, Chaudry said, he has “a lot of hope” that, in the next couple years he will be home.
But Berg said she ends the documentary when it does because it “we’ve been waiting over two years for the trial,” and “the film might be the only new trial he will ever receive.”
More than four years after the first season of Serial wrapped, leaving millions of podcast listeners with unanswered questions about the 1999 death of Maryland high schooler Hae Min Lee, her murder gets another look with HBO doc The Case Against Adnan Syed.
The four-part series, set to premiere March 10, picks up largely where the podcast left off — focusing on the ongoing work to see Syed, who was convicted of Lee’s murder in a particularly controversial trial, get another shot at freedom. Director Amy Berg was joined Friday afternoon by two attorneys involved in Syed’s case, as well as his former classmate Asia McClain, in a panel to discuss the project. The foursome all seemed optimistic about Syed’s prospects in a new trial, something he was finally granted in 2018.
“The goal of this series was to get closer to the truth, and I think you’ll get there by the end,” said Berg, who also directed Deliver Us from Evil Producer and West of Memphis. “I wasn’t satisfied with the case that was presented in 1999 or the outcome. I still feel very frustrated that police detectives din’t do their job in a thorough way. Things have changed since 1999. They didn’t even take color photos of the autopsy. There are so many cases that need to be reexamined because of these injustices.”
The lack of proper procedure that led to Syed’s prison sentence, and the wave of documentary programming about the wrongfully convicted that followed Serial, were a focal point of the discussion.
“Systems protect themselves” said Rabia Chaudry, the attorney and activist who wrote the book Adan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial. She emphasized that prosecutors tend to fight even harder in case’s like this one. “It’s not always about the truth. It’s about maintaining status quo. It’s harder when there’s so much notoriety around a case, because it gives the State more incentive to save face.”
The State of Maryland was not particularly helpful in making the series, according the Berg. She emphasized that she was granted less access there than she had in Arkansas where she documented the wrongful conviction of the West Memphis Three. “They would not let us go into prison to interview Adnan,” she said. “Its’ really upsetting.”
In Serial, Syed was interviewed over the phone on several occasions. As for Syed, now almost 40 years old and still serving a life sentence, Chaudry spoke about his current outlook before the new trial.
“Adnan hears everything about him on the news,” she said. “The guards keep him updated. He’s doing well. He has hope finally after many years. He has a ray of light. I think he’ll be home in the next couple of years. I really do believe that.”
Larry Morris/The Washington Post, via Getty Images
“The Clinton Affair,” A&E’s six-part mini-series on the scandals of Bill Clinton’s presidency, lacks a point of view. It is straightforward in style and evenhanded in tone. Strangely, this recommends it.
The events it covers have been so sensationalized and so politicized for so long that seeing them presented neutrally and in roughly chronological order is revelatory, particularly regarding the stories of three women: Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. These are the women who, in the 1990s, publicly accused the president of the United States of sexual harassment and assault.
It’s been a year for reconsidering Bill Clinton’s presidency and its players; December is the 20th anniversary of his impeachment. Ken Starr returned to defend his investigation in a memoir, “Contempt.” Linda Tripp reappeared on Capitol Hill, where she styled herself as a brave truth teller who faced a “high-tech lynching” for blowing the whistle. And Bill and Hillary are setting off on an arena tour billed as “An Evening With the Clintons.”
Much of the buzz around the A&E series has focused on the participation of Monica Lewinsky. Though the filmmakers — the director Blair Foster and the producer Alex Gibney — interviewed more than 50 subjects, including James Carville and David Brock, the one boldfaced name in the network’s news release is hers. This prime-time appearance caps her comeback. After spending a decade and a half out of the public eye, she has returned with a perch at Vanity Fair, a TED Talk and an anti-bullying cause. She has called herself “patient zero” of online shaming. She has emerged from years of media torture as an unexpected darling of the press.
The same cannot be said for Jones, Willey and Broaddrick. In the ’90s, they were dismissed as “bimbos” deployed in service of what Hillary Clinton called the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and with few exceptions, their stories have remained relegated to the margins of respectable conversation. They have been featured not in glossy fashion magazines but in self-published memoirs and political smear campaigns. They have been used as right-wing pawns and left-wing punching bags.
In 2016, when they sat together in an on-camera interview during Hillary Clinton’s run for president, it was for the nationalist outlet Breitbart. And when they convened in public to tell their stories, it was in service of a Donald J. Trump campaign stunt at the second presidential debate; Steve Bannon could be spied stalking the perimeter. Their stories have been twisted in so many ways for so many years that it seems unworkable to unravel them now.
“The Clinton Affair” does the work. It quite literally shows these women in a new light. They are filmed in places that look like well-appointed hotel rooms. The lighting is soft and generous. The filmmakers place their stories on the same level as those of Lewinsky and Carville, of career F.B.I. agents and prestigious lawyers. As a result, a space opens there for them to speak about Bill Clinton but also about themselves. The series lifts their accusations from the tabloid gutter and repositions them in the context of their lives as women.
Paula Jones, in particular, rises. In 1994, she said that Bill Clinton had summoned her to a hotel room and exposed himself when he was the governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee. (Clinton has always denied the charges from Jones, Willey and Broaddrick). Later she filed suit against him for sexual harassment. Her story was politicized from the start: It was seized by a Republican operative, who urged her to go public at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the right’s annual activist spectacle.
In turn, Clinton’s advisers trashed her on television. Carville said this: “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” George Stephanopoulos compared Jones to Tonya Harding: just another woman seeking cash for telling a tabloid tale. (Even Harding — not the victim in that story — has since had her legacy revised.) The assessment lingered: In 2016, Vox published an “explainer” dismissing her charges as “probably bunk,” relaying, in part, that her description of Bill Clinton’s penis did not align with those of some anonymous sources.
“The Clinton Affair” gifts her a blank slate. The aspersions cast against her can be resolved here. Yes, she was poor: She sought out an Arkansas state government job in an attempt to transcend her only other options, “the Walmart and the Pizza Hut.” And yes, she leaned on conservatives; in a contemporaneous interview with Sam Donaldson, she explained, “Those are the only people that are coming to my defense.” In her new interview, she retells her story of harassment while fighting back tears. She appears guileless and helpful. In a word: credible.
Jones’s account is further clarified by Slate’s eight-part investigative history podcast “Slow Burn,” in which the journalist Leon Neyfakh pursues the uncovered stories of Clinton’s impeachment. If “The Clinton Affair” seeks an even retelling, “Slow Burn” snakes in and out of the narrative, teasing out themes and sorting out confusions. One of its achievements is in its meticulous documentation of how the harassment and assault claims against Clinton came to be politicized.
Jones’s representatives made efforts to place her story in mainstream newspapers, only to be frustrated by foot-dragging journalists. As Michael Isikoff, a Washington Post reporter at the time, puts it in an interview with Neyfakh, his editors “viewed it as tawdry.” (Isikoff was later ready to report the Lewinsky story for Newsweek, but higher-ups held it, according to “Slow Burn” and “The Clinton Affair”; Matt Drudge broke the news instead.) Later, NBC sat on the tape of an emotional interview with Broaddrick in which she accused Bill Clinton of raping her, finally airing the segment only after Clinton had weathered his impeachment and trial.
“Slow Burn” concludes with an episode about that NBC appearance. Through new interviews with Broaddrick and Lisa Myers, the NBC reporter who championed her story, it paints a convincing picture of a network news division that seemed incapable of handling assault claims against powerful men, no matter how credible or well-sourced. In the ’90s, these women’s stories cut directly to the biases of the mainstream media: that sexual harassment and assault were tabloid tales and that publishing anything that seemed to sway a political process was ill advised.
For the past several years, we have been recalibrating Clinton’s legacy through micro historical trends. When Lewinsky re-emerged in 2014, she aligned herself in the causes of the moment, speaking out against bullying and shaming. When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, the accusers’ stories were again co-opted for political attack, by both the Trump campaign and Clinton supporters. An Emily’s List rep told BuzzFeed of Broaddrick: “Women know that this is an unfair attack on Hillary, and that’s why it continues to exist in this small corner of the right-wing media world.”
Today these stories are being re-evaluated in the context of the #MeToo movement. In an essay for Vanity Fair earlier this year, Lewinsky wrote that #MeToo had given her a “new lens” for seeing her own story: “Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.”
Lewinsky has always been cast as the central female character of Bill Clinton’s scandals, and while that has been hell for her, it has been rather convenient for him. Over two decades, it was easy to forget that the reporting on Clinton’s consensual affair with an intern arose out of an even more damning context: Jones’s harassment suit. (It was Lewinsky and Clinton denying their affair under oath in the Jones case that gave Starr the material to pounce.) Paula Jones spoke out against the most powerful man in the world, and when his lawyers argued that a sitting president couldn’t be subject to a civil suit, she took them all the way to the Supreme Court and won. In another world, she would be hailed as a feminist icon. But not in this world — not yet.
“The people were so outraged,” James Carville tells a cameraperson in The Clinton Affair, the new three-night A&E documentary series retracing the events leading up to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment. Two decades later, Clinton’s former lead strategist can’t talk about the scandal without looking visibly chagrined; he throws the word “outraged” out as an insult.
While he may be the most staunch Clinton defender in the docuseries, Carville’s attitude toward the investigation into Clinton’s sex life—that it was an overblown nothing, a sick partisan pageant, properly discussed with an eye-roll when pressed, though preferably not at all—was common at the time. The president’s approval rating climbed during his impeachment, as though the public was so sick of hearing about how bad he was, it ended up liking him more. But despite Carville’s efforts, watching The Clinton Affair makes it difficult to see the events leading up to Clinton’s impeachment as anything other than genuinely, morally outrageous. It is a maddening documentary, but the queasy anger it provokes is earned. Sometimes “outraged” isn’t an insult. Sometimes it’s a rational response.
The story The Clinton Affair tells—the scandal that shook America so hard it made it nauseous—has already been told many times. But it’s been 20 years since the impeachment, which means content creators are contractually obligated to pump out anniversary content. The docuseries is not the only new look at the impeachment scandal; along with the excellent second season of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast and the third episode of Showtime’s Enemies, The Clinton Affair is part of a new wave of reappraisals about Clinton’s troubles. However well-trod the material is, and however much anyone who lived through the ’90s might like to avoid ever thinking about presidential ejaculate ever again, The Clinton Affair is a valuable, timely look backward. Its reexamination is powered by its extensive interviews with Monica Lewinsky, who walks viewers through the worst years of her life in meticulous, bracing detail. Lewinsky, who did not speak with either Slow Burn or Enemies, is The Clinton Affair’s moral anchor. She is honest and earnest, a buoyant personality revisiting the decisions that almost ruined her life. “I thought the only way to fix this was to kill myself, to jump out the window,” Lewinsky says, crying while talking about the pressure that investigators put on her to flip on Clinton. “I was mortified, I was afraid of what it was going to do to my family. I was still in love with Bill at the time. I felt really responsible.” The series outlines how relentlessly Lewinsky was mocked, her name itself a shorthand punch line for bimbo-dom, and how long it took her to figure out a path forward, all while the other person in her notorious dalliance continued to be president of the United States and then a respected statesman (and never talked to her again).
The Clinton Affair’s major strength is the way it places Lewinsky’s narrative within the context of stories from other women who now have their names and reputations forever linked to Clinton. Lewinsky and Clinton’s sexual encounters became part of the Ken Starr investigation because Lewinsky was subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit Paula Jones brought against the president for sexual harassment. However, Jones’s story was often treated as a lamentable sideshow instead of a testimony that should be considered seriously. The Clinton Affair does not make that error. It presents the firsthand stories of Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey as integral to understanding what happened with Clinton and Lewinsky. While it acknowledges that these women have willingly aligned themselves with the Trump camp, it does not treat their political affiliations as disqualifying. With figures like Willey, whose promotion of hateful conspiracy theories about the Clintons have damaged her general credibility, The Clinton Affair nails a tricky balancing act in documenting her far right-wing beliefs but encouraging her to tell her story nonetheless, allowing for the possibility that someone who has nurtured an animating hatred for the Clintons over the years might also have a legitimate grievance with them. By including these women and their accounts in detail, allowing the women involved to speak about the lasting effects that their encounters with Clinton had on their lives, the severity of Clinton’s misbehavior is impossible to turn away from. (Slow Burn also deliberately pressed on the repercussions with a Broaddrick interview.) The wallop of hearing so many stories about Clinton’s sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape, all at once, is considerable. The documentary frames Clinton’s behavior toward Lewinsky as a trait rather than a mistake, part of a larger pattern.
In The Clinton Affair, Juanita Broaddrick describes how she decided to talk about being raped by Bill Clinton again only after Hillary Clinton tweeted about the necessity of sexual assault survivors speaking up—a reminder that complicity in dismissing accounts of sexual crimes when it’s politically convenient is an across-the-aisle issue. However one might feel about these women allying themselves with Trump, they have been telling the same stories for years, often to unsympathetic listeners. The Clinton Affair chips away at the idea, so popular among Democrats at the time, that outrage at Clinton was a regrettable by-product of the right wing seizing on a national puritanism. “We were the original ones who broke our silence,” Kathleen Willey says. “And we were absolutely hammered for it.”
The plight of Clinton’s accusers is not a vestigial struggle from a less enlightened era; despite the progress the #MeToo movement made in urging people to take reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace seriously, women who come forward today risk facing similarly harsh reception for their testimony. The series briefly notes that Brett Kavanaugh worked on the Clinton investigation, and Kavanaugh’s involvement provides a clear through line between the way that Clinton’s accusers were treated and the way women who step forward today are treated. The treatment that Paula Jones received by dismissive Democrats resembles, uncomfortably closely, right-wing scoffing at Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified this year that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were young. Congress’s decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice in light of Ford’s testimony reconfirmed how these stories are not de facto keys to unseat the powerful. The guardrails immuring powerful men from the consequences of their actions are still in place, and often supported by characterizations of women as nothing more than ideologically motivated harpies. At least 22 women have stated that Donald Trump sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted them, and the press secretary of the United States is still able to stand at her podium and call them all liars. Although Jones has allowed herself to be used as a prop by the current president, her treatment by the Clinton administration and the Clinton-friendly press is also a blueprint for current powerful abusers: mock, belittle, deny.
In March, Lewinsky wrote a column for Vanity Fair reflecting on her scandal within the context of the #MeToo movement. She believes that the recent surge in attention to sexual abuses of power is providing a “new lens” for viewing her experience. “Until recently (thank you, Harvey Weinstein), historians hadn’t really had the perspective to fully process and acknowledge that year of shame and spectacle,” she wrote. “And as a culture, we still haven’t properly examined it. Re-framed it. Integrated it. And transformed it.” The Clinton Affair is not going to transform anything. That project is far bigger than a documentary. But it is a proper examination, one that interrogates Clinton’s legacy by integrating stories about him that are often not given enough consideration.
Monica Lewinsky at Vanity Fair’s Oscar party in Los Angeles, California on 4 March. Photograph: Owen Kolasinski/BFA/REX/Shutterstock
Monica Lewinsky opens up about her relationship with former president Bill Clinton in a new series set to debut on Sunday.
Lewinsky – a 22-year-old intern when she and Clinton began a sexual relationship that ultimately led to his impeachment – has emerged as an anti-bullying advocate and voice in the #MeToo movement after having years of her life derailed by the scandal that broke 20 years ago.
She gave 20 hours of interviews for the new A&E docuseries, called The Clinton Affair – a title Lewinsky found appropriate.
“Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal,” she wrote in an essay in Vanity Fair last week, explaining her decision to speak out for the series. “I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle.”
In clips released from the series, Lewinsky recalls sexual encounters with Clinton in his private suite off the Oval Office, and their unsuccessful efforts to keep the relationship private.
“We were both cautious. But not cautious enough,” she said in a clip aired on Good Morning America.
Lewinsky recounted how Clinton warned her that she could face questioning as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by another woman, Paula Jones.
“I was petrified. I was frantic about my family and this becoming public,” she said, explaining that Clinton told her she could sign an affidavit to avoid testifying.
“He did not say: ‘Listen, you’re going to have to lie here.’ But on the flip side, he also didn’t say: ‘Listen, honey, this is going to be really awful – we’re going to have to tell the truth.’”
Lewinsky signed a document denying the relationship, which Clinton also denied publicly and under oath. Clinton faced impeachment for lying about the affair, but the Senate declined to remove him from office and he went on to complete his second term.
“Some closest to me asked why would I want to revisit the most painful and traumatic parts of my life – again. Publicly. On-camera,” Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair. “An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before.
“Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote.
After his presidency, Clinton went on to run a charitable foundation and campaign for his wife for president, facing only occasional scrutiny over his affair with Lewinsky and allegations of sexual harassment and assault lodged by other women.
With the advent of #MeToo, some Democrats have reconsidered their steadfast support for Clinton two decades ago.
He was asked in June in an interview on NBC whether he owed Lewinsky an apology, and said he did not.
“What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it,” Lewinsky wrote. “And we, in turn, a better society.”
She noted Clinton’s answer in another interview where he was asked why he entered into an inappropriate relationship with an intern and answered: “Because I could.”
“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could,” Lewinsky wrote. “Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.”
Monica Lewinsky said it’s not too late for former President Bill Clinton to apologise to her, and she would like him to do so.
Before the premiere of a new documentary series detailing her involvement in the 1998 sex scandal with Mr Clinton, Ms Lewinsky revisited her publicly traumatic experience.
For Vanity Fair, Ms Lewinsky wrote that, while there has been some debate as to whether or not she is owed an apology from the Mr Clinton, she believes the important question is whether or not he wants to apologise at all.
“So, what feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologise,” she wrote. “I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it…and we, in turn, a better society.”
Lately, the former White House intern has been outspoken about her feelings on the affair. Earlier this year, while Ms Lewinsky said her relationship with the former president was consensual, she felt he had abused his power.
In her essay, Ms Lewinsky said that, after a lot of time spent agonizing over deciding whether or not to participate in the series, she decided it was time to let a woman tell this story. She mentioned Blair Foster, the director of the series, told her that all the books written about the ‘90s scandal were written by men. “History literally being written by men,” Ms Lewinsky wrote.
The new series “The Clinton Affair,” offers a fresh set of perspectives 20 years after the start of impeachment proceedings against Mr Clinton. Ms Lewinsky said that in addition to including more women’s voices, it also “embodies a woman’s gaze” since women make up two of the three main editors and four of the five executive producers.
“I may not like everything that has been put in the series or left out, but I like that the perspective is being shaped by women,” she added. “Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful. But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life—a time in our history—I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
In a new essay for Vanity Fair, where she serves as a contributing editor, Monica Lewinsky opens up about her decision to participate in A&E’s upcoming docuseries The Clinton Affair, which premieres on Sunday, and reveals that if she met Hillary Clinton in person today, she’d apologize to her for her affair with former President Bill Clinton.
“If I were to see Hillary Clinton in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am,” she wrote in her piece, which was published on Tuesday.
Added Lewinsky: “I know I would do this, because I have done it in other difficult situations related to 1998. I have also written letters apologizing to others — including some who also wronged me gravely. I believe that when we are trapped by our inability to evolve, by our inability to empathize humbly and painfully with others, then we remain victims ourselves.”
Back in 1999, the former White House intern expressed remorse and apologized to the former first lady and the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea Clinton, during an interview with Barbara Walters.
“I recognize the pain and the suffering they’ve gone through because of this,” she said at the time. “I wouldn’t dream of asking Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton to forgive me, but I would ask them to know that I am very sorry for what happened, for what they’ve been through.”
During a June interview with NBC News, Bill Clinton was asked if Lewinsky deserves an apology from him, to which he responded, “No I do not.” He added, “I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion that I was sorry…. The apology was public.”
In her Vanity Fair piece, Lewinsky also explained why she decided to participate in The Clinton Affair. “Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote.
Lewinsky, who was in her early 20s at the time of her affair with Bill Clinton, went on to say that she hopes to help other young people avoid similar experiences by shedding more light on her story.
“Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful,” she continued. “But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life — a time in our history — I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
In a preview for A&E’s upcoming docuseries The Clinton Affair, Monica Lewinsky recalls the emotional aftermath of her affair with former President Bill Clinton. According to the White House intern-turned-social activist, she became suicidal in 1998 when the FBI questioned her about her interactions with Clinton.
“There was this point for me somewhere in the first several hours where I would be hysterically crying and then I would just shut down,” Lewinsky says in the clip, released Tuesday. “And in the shut-down period, I remember looking out the window and thinking that the only way to fix this was to kill myself, was to jump out the window.”
She tearfully adds: “I felt terrible. I was scared, and I was just mortified and afraid of what this was going to do to my family. I know I was still in love with Bill at the time, so I felt really responsible.”
In another preview, Lewinsky explains why she was attracted to Clinton. “I don’t talk about this very often and I still feel uncomfortable talking about it because I think it’s one of those things where it’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president. Obviously, it did,” she says.
“But I think in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time, the truth is I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desired, desired me,” Lewinsky continues. “However wrong it was, however misguided, for who I was in that very moment at 22 years old, that was how it felt.”
Lewinsky revealed why she decided to participate in The Clinton Affair in a recent piece written for Vanity Fair, where she serves as a contributing editor.
“Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote. “Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful. But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life — a time in our history — I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
Lewinsky also wrote that she would apologize to Hillary Clinton for her affair with the former first lady’s husband if they were ever to meet in person: “If I were to see Hillary Clinton in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am.”
The Clinton Affair premieres on A&E on Nov. 18 at 9 p.m.
(CNN)Monica Lewinsky said Monday that she decided to participate in a new documentary series about her infamous 1990s affair with then-President Bill Clinton so that she could ensure that her experience “never happens to another young person in our country again.”
In a Vanity Fair essay published early Monday, Lewinsky outlined her decision to participate in the three-night series, “The Clinton Affair,” which will premiere Sunday, November 18 on A&E. The series, according to the network, “weaves together never-before-seen archival footage with exclusive new interviews to examine the biggest political scandal of a generation and its lasting influence and reverberations on our country.”
“I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life—a time in our history—I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again,” Lewinsky wrote.
Lewinsky also said she decided to participate in the series because “throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced.”
“Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words,” she wrote.
In the essay, Lewinsky suggested that the name of the documentary served as a way to rewrite the narrative around her relationship with Clinton, writing, “Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal…I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle.”
By agreeing to be interviewed for the series, she said, she was allowing herself to “heal.”
“An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before…That’s exactly where we need to start to heal—with the past. But it’s not easy,” she wrote.
Lewinsky, whose struggle to maintain a private life following the affair has been marred by questions about the scandal, recently declined to publicly address it.
In September, she cut a live interview in Israel short after being questioned about it.
“I’m so sorry, I’m not going to be able to do this,” Lewinsky said before walking off stage after Israeli TV news anchor Yonit Levi began the interview by asking Lewinsky whether she still expected a personal, private apology from Clinton regarding their affair.
But on Monday, she addressed the question straight on, writing that Clinton “would be a better man” if he apologized.
“[W]hat feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize,” she wrote. “I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him.”
Asked in June if he owed Lewinsky an apology, Clinton told NBC’s Craig Melvin, “No, I do not — I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
Lewinsky also wrote that if she were to see Clinton’s wife, Hillary, in person today, she would offer up an apology to the former first lady.
“I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her—sincerely—how very sorry I am,” Lewinsky wrote.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Donald Judd and Dan Merica contributed to this report.
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
With “The Clinton Affair,” Monica Lewinsky is ready to revisit the 1998 sex scandal that nearly unraveled Bill Clinton’s presidency, and she hopes by doing so she can retire the term “Lewinsky scandal” once and for all.
“I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle,” the former White House intern, now 45, writes in a new Vanity Fair essay published Tuesday.
In the essay, she explains what motivated her to take part in the 6 1/2-hour series, which premieres Sunday (9 EST/PST) from Emmy-winning producer Blair Foster (“Get Me Roger Stone,” “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”) and Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “The Looming Tower”).
Foster, she says, “pointed out to me during one of the tapings that almost all the books written about the Clinton impeachment were written by men. History literally being written by men. In contrast, the docuseries not only includes more women’s voices, but embodies a woman’s gaze: Two of the three main editors and four of the five executive producers are women.”
Another impetus, she says, was grief: “Grief for the pain I caused others. Grief for the broken young woman I had been before and during my time in D.C., and the shame I still felt around that. Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’ – saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire. (You can imagine how those constructs impacted my personal and professional life.)”
She admits she wishes she could erase her memories of her Washington years, but realizes, “in order to move forward in the life I have, I must take risks – both professional and emotional. (It’s a combustible combination.) An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before.”
She adds, “When politicians are asked uncomfortable questions, they often duck and dodge by saying, That’s old news. It’s in the past. Yes. That’s exactly where we need to start to heal.”
And even though Lewinsky made personal apologies to Hillary Clinton in a 1999 interview with Barbara Walters, she says that if she saw the former first lady, secretary of state and presidential candidate in person, she’d say it all over again.
“I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her – sincerely – how very sorry I am,” she writes.
As for ever getting an apology from the ex-president himself, she says, “What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”
More than 20 years after she began facing public humiliation and demonization because of her affair with then-President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky has become a prominent voice in reflecting on the ways powerful men abuse their positions over less powerful women.
“I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she wrote in March for Vanity Fair. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances — and the ability to abuse them — do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)”
In a new Vanity Fair essay published Tuesday, Lewinsky again examines this disparity in power as she explains why she decided to relive the painful memories of her experience for a forthcoming documentary series airing on A&E.
Central to her decision to participate was being able to redefine the narrative about herself, she wrote, noting how Clinton’s position of power has allowed him to escape the same levels of public scrutiny.
A recent example: Clinton’s continued refusal to personally apologize to her and accept responsibility for contributing to her public humiliation, which he demonstrated during a combative interview on NBC’s “Today” show in June.
This summer, Clinton participated in a number of interviews to promote a book with author James Patterson. In several of them, the former president appeared to be caught off guard by questions about the Me Too movement and gave tone-deaf answers, despite Me Too bringing an increased focus on and a re-examination of his affair with Lewinsky, as well as the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him.
“If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer,” Lewinsky wrote of Clinton.
In the “Today” interview, an indignant Clinton asserted to host Craig Melvin that he did not owe Lewinsky an apology. But Lewinsky wrote that the problem with his response was less about the apology directly and more about his insistence that he need not apologize.
“What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him,” she wrote. “He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”
Another example of the disparate power dynamic, according to Lewinsky, is how at the time of the affair, Clinton’s position of power protected him from experiencing as much public humiliation as she did.
Recalling his infamous Oval Office declaration that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” which turned out to be a lie, she said that at the time, she thought it was good that he was not planning to resign.
“Forty-five-year-old me sees that footage very differently,” she wrote Tuesday. “I see a sports coach signposting the playbook for the big game. Instead of backing down amid the swirling scandal and telling the truth, Bill instead threw down the gauntlet that day in the Oval Office: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.’ With that, the demonization of Monica Lewinsky began. As it so often does, power throws a protective cape around the shoulders of the man, and he dictates the spin by denigrating the less powerful woman.”
In the essay, Lewinsky also explores how our public narratives are often shaped by men, as was the case with the coverage of her and Clinton’s affair — “history literally being written by men,” she wrote, explaining that she appreciated that the A&E docuseries “embodies a woman’s gaze,” with a majority of the editors and producers being women.
“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could,” she wrote. “Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.”
“Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole,” says Monica Lewinsky of her first encounter with then-President Bill Clinton in November 1995. Interviewed for A&E’s new docuseries The Clinton Affair, Lewinsky is candid, if not exactly nostalgic, about the torrid affair between her and Clinton that would come to define his presidency and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, the rest of her life.
The six-part series, which premieres Nov. 18, is yet another examination of Clinton’s presidency, and the various scandals—notably, the Whitewater controversy and the Paula Jones case, which would ultimately bring the Lewinsky affair to light—that punctuated his time in the White House. What’s notable about The Clinton Affair, however, is that it includes interviews with Lewinsky herself—and allows her to redefine the narrative years later, in the midst of #MeToo-inspired outrage at toxic men.
Not that Clinton was, in the eyes of Lewinsky, toxic at first. She concedes in the series that soon after starting work at the White House as an intern, she developed a “crush” on the charming, saxophone-playing president. Fresh out of college and working her first job, Lewinsky’s attempts at capturing Clinton’s attention are endearingly innocent at the start—attending official White House events, where Clinton would frequently interact with interns and staff. After finally meeting Clinton at one such event, the next day Lewinsky ran home during lunch to change into the same green suit she’d been wearing the day previous when Clinton had noticed her. “I thought, ‘Well maybe he’ll notice me again,’” she explains. “And notice me, he did.”
For the next few months, as Lewinsky tells it, their flirtation escalated, although nothing more than flirty banter or slight familiarity ever occurred, at least until the government shut down in November of 1995. Most full-time staffers were sent home, which left a skeleton crew and the White House interns to pick up the slack. Clinton would frequently wander around the West Wing, which just so happened to be where Lewinsky was working. “He passed by the office, looked in, and saw me sitting there, and smiled,” she says. “And I smiled back.” From there, the flirtation reached new heights.
At a birthday party for a staffer later that day, Lewinsky purposefully didn’t adjust her pants (to leave her underwear peeking through) and went to go wash her hands. “As I passed George Stephanopoulos’ office, I kind of looked into the open doorway,” she explains in the second episode of the show. “And Bill happened to be standing there. And he motioned me in—I don’t think my heart had ever beat as fast. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole.”
The rest of the details about Lewinsky and Clinton’s affair are, by this point, common knowledge. It continued on and off for nearly two years, until the specter of Ken Starr and his investigation forced it to end. “I was completely at his mercy,” Lewinsky says of the power dynamic of their relationship. She was never able to contact him directly, and would instead spend weekends idling at her desk, waiting for him to call. And, of course, there was the clandestine aspect of the relationship that further complicated things. “There were always narratives of secrecy in this relationship,” Lewinsky explains. “We were both cautious, but not cautious enough.”
Monica Lewinsky doesn’t get enough credit for being a solid writer. She is a public figure who had unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the highest office of the United States, and she’s drawn from her experiences to craft consistently wrenching prose about complicated sexual dynamics and the nature of victimhood.
Now, as she prepares to release a new docuseries, Lewinsky has published a new first-person essay with Vanity Fair in which the activist and former White House intern recounts how difficult it was to revisit the affair with Bill Clinton that made her a household name in 1998.
Lewinsky, who was only 24 when the scandal broke, excavated her past while undergoing interviews for the six-and-a-half hour documentary series The Clinton Affair, which premieres this Sunday, November 18, on A&E.
“It’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president,” Lewinsky says in the first episode of the show. “Obviously it did. But I think in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time—the truth is, I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desired desired me. However wrong it was… for who I was in that very moment, at 22 years old, that was how it felt.”
“As I passed George Stephanopoulos’ office, I kind of looked into the open doorway,” Lewinsky continues in the second episode, recalling how the affair began. “And Bill happened to be standing there. And he motioned me in—I don’t think my heart had ever beat as fast. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole.”
The much younger Lewinsky was in the thrall of a power imbalance that left her totally vulnerable. “I was completely at his mercy,” she says of her relationship with Clinton, who was 49 at the time.
Lewinsky has always been a formidable public figure, someone with valuable insights into the dark side of celebrity journalism and the toll that intense scrutiny can take on the psyche. She is fully aware and unafraid of the glee the public took in unspooling the vulgar specifics of the Clinton affair. That vulgarity first subsumed her, and spit her back out.
“The process of this docuseries led me to new rooms of shame that I still needed to explore, and delivered me to Grief’s doorstep,” Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair. “Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’—saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire.”
A&E has pulled off a coup by securing Monica Lewinsky to feature in six-part documentary The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (w/t).
The cable network has ordered the series from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, Jemina Khan’s Instinct Productions and Emmy-winning director Blair Foster (Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge). It will weave together never-seen-before archival footage with exclusive new interviews, of which Lewinsky’s appearance is the most high-profile.
Beginning November 18, the limited doc series will explore the biggest political scandal of its generation and look at broader topics including media, feminism, politics and power. It will investigate the history leading up to the impeachment trial and chronicles the role each of these forces played in this story of sex, power, money, lies and ideological warfare.
The doc series comes a few months after A&E sister network History scrapped its planned drama series, The Breach, about the same subject.
Gibney, Foster and Stacey Offman serve as executive producers for Jigsaw Productions, while Khan and Henrietta Conrad serve as executive producers for Instinct Productions. Rich Perello serves as co-executive producer and Trevor Davidoski as producer for Jigsaw. Executive producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to The Impeachment of Bill Clinton.
“A real-life political thriller, The Impeachment of Bill Clinton is the most in-depth and intimate account of how one of the biggest scandals in our nation’s history unfolded, forever changing the landscape of American politics,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President & Head of Programming, A&E. “Alex, Blair and the rest of our incredible creative team masterfully take viewers through the events that divided the nation, while exploring the deeper conversations that resulted from them about sexism, harassment and public shaming that the country still wrestles with today.”
“I thought I knew a lot about President Clinton’s impeachment because I lived through it. However, when I began this project, I quickly realized much of what I thought I knew was incomplete, or worse, inaccurate,” said Foster. “My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved. The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s. To borrow a phrase from Barbara Tuchman, this series serves as a ‘distant mirror’ on our current political situation and is far more timely than I ever anticipated.”
“Blair has done magnificent work with this mini-series. She takes a story we thought we all knew and shows it to us in an entirely new light,” added Gibney. “Through the testimony of an extraordinary number of key participants, Blair illuminates the origins of today’s political chicanery and tribalism, the media madness of scandal and the way that individuals – with all their messy, contradictory and deeply human motivations – are sacrificed at the altar of power and ambition.”
Twenty years after the president’s affair with an intern led to congressional action, A&E and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions will reexamine the events with a three-part event featuring new accuser interviews and explosive never-before-seen footage.
Twenty years after Bill Clinton became only the second president to be impeached, A&E is producing what strives to be the definitive examination of the investigation that consumed the national media and forever altered the lives of the principals involved. The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) includes explosive never-before-seen footage of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, whose life was turned upside down by special counsel Ken Starr’s investigation, as well as new interviews with Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, who alleged that Clinton raped her in 1978. The six-hour series from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions and directed by Blair Foster (Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge) will bow Nov. 18 on A&E and air over three nights.
Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vp and head of programming at A&E, calls it “a real-life political thriller and the most in-depth and intimate account of how one of the biggest scandals in our nation’s history unfolded, forever changing the landscape of American politics.” The project includes revealing interviews with Lewinsky and takes on new relevance in the wake of #MeToo and at a moment when another special counsel investigation is looking into a sitting president. It is the first time Lewinsky, who has re-emerged in recent years, has talked so candidly about her experiences. She sat for several interviews with Foster and Gibney; executive producer of the miniseries Jemima Khan — who founded Instinct Productions with Henrietta Conrad and who worked with Gibney on the Wikileaks film We Steal Secrets, helped broker the first meeting several months ago. (Instinct also is a co-producer on the A&E series.)
In an episode seen by The Hollywood Reporter, Lewinsky speaks frankly about betrayal (her friend Linda Tripp secretly recorded their conversations), of being in love with Clinton (she details how they would arrange to meet with the help of Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie) and that fateful tryst during which she was wearing the blue Gap dress. She went out to dinner that night with friends, she recalls in the film, and no one commented that she had “stuff” all over her dress.
Lewinsky, now 45, first re-engaged with the topic earlier this year when she penned a first-person piece for Vanity Fair reflecting on her experiences through the current #MeToo prism. (The piece included the excruciating detail of running into Starr at a West Village restaurant on Christmas Eve in 2017.) But mostly she has remained reticent. On Monday (Sept. 4) she cut short a live interview at a TV conference in Jerusalem when the interviewer asked her if she expected a private apology from Bill Clinton. (Lewinsky later tweeted an explanation that there were “clear parameters” for her appearance and that the interviewer was aware that the topic was “off limits” and that the questions were “blatant disregard” of the agreement.) For his part, Clinton seemed woefully unprepared for questions about Lewinsky when he began doing press last spring for his mystery novel with James Patterson.
By the time she’s finished producing the series, Foster will have conducted more than 60 interviews — including with Clinton accusers Jones, Willey and Broaddrick, as well as several people close to the Clintons, like lawyer Jane Sherburne and campaign strategist James Carville, though not the Clintons themselves. “We would have loved to interview them,” Foster tells THR. “They’re certainly aware of the project.” She has not yet given up on the Clintons, or Linda Tripp, although Tripp has turned her down multiple times. But she acknowledges that the Clintons are highly unlikely.
“My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved,” says Foster. “The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s.”
A&E Network in the US is preparing a documentary series about the impeachment of former US president Bill Clinton from noted producer Alex Gibney.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) will blend archival footage with interviews with key figures involved in the impeachment and the events leading up to it.
Interviewees include former White House intern and staffer Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Clinton sparked the scandal that led to his impeachment, plus ex-independent counsel Ken Starr and Clinton’s former political strategist, James Carville.
The series, which marks the 20th anniversary of the impeachment proceedings, will explore the political scandal and its legacy in the US. It will investigate the history leading up to the trial, telling a story of sex, power, money, lies and ideological warfare.
The series is produced by Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, with Gibney (Going Clear), director Blair Foster and Stacey Offman exec producing for Jigsaw. Jemima Khan and Henrietta Conrad serve as executive producers for Instinct Productions. The exec producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner.
A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to the show, which will air on A&E over three consecutive nights starting with a two-hour premiere at 21.00 (ET/PT) on Sunday November 18.
The docuseries comes after a planned History channel drama based on the case was scrapped by A+E Networks in April.
A&E Network is marking the 20th anniversary of the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton with a comprehensive six-part docuseries from Alex Gibney‘s Jigsaw Productions.
Directed by Emmy-winner Blair Foster, The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) will combine never-before-seen archive with exclusive new interviews to investigate the former president’s affair with former White House intern and staffer Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s subsequent impeachment and its lasting influence on America.
The series, which will air over three consecutive nights beginning Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, will also explore the broader topics of the media, feminism, politics and power dynamics.
Featured in the six-parter are interviews with key players and observers who were intimately involved in the long-standing political drama, including Monica Lewinsky; former independent counsel Ken Starr; former political strategist James Carville; former Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett; former Clinton attorney Amy Sabrin; former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart; former deputy independent counsel Bob Bittman; and former White House special counsel Jane Sherburne, among others.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton is produced by Jigsaw Productions and Instinct Productions. Executive producers are Alex Gibney, Blair Foster and Stacey Offman (Jigsaw Productions); Jemima Khan and Henrietta Conrad (Instinct Productions); and Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner (A&E).
Rich Perello is co-executive producer, and Trevor Davidoski is producer for Jigsaw.
A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to the series.
“My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved,” said series director Blair Foster in a statement. “The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s. To borrow a phrase from Barbara Tuchman, this series serves as a ‘distant mirror’ on our current political situation and is far more timely than I ever anticipated.”
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Serial is finally coming to TV… HBO and Sky have partnered on a four-part documentary – The Case Against Adnan Syed about the disappearance of high school student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.
The series will be directed by Deliver Us From Evil and West of Memphis director Amy Berg and will explore the case that prompted the podcast phenomenon.
It will be produced by Jemima Khan’s production company Instinct Productions, which she runs with former Princess chief Henrietta Conrad, and Working Title TV. Nick Cave will provide original music and it will be exec produced by Khan, Conrad, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn.
It is the latest co-pro between the two companies following nuclear drama Chernobyland Julia David comedy Sally4Ever.
Director of Programming, Sky Entertainment UK & Ireland, Zai Bennett said, “We’re excited to partner with our friends at HBO to bring this fascinating and gripping case to television screens worldwide. We’ll be offering viewers a compelling window into one of the most talked about murder cases in recent years. The hugely talented Amy Berg has unprecedented access to those closest to the investigation, which is sure to make unmissable viewing.”
Sky and HBO are teaming again, this time for a documentary series about the Adnan Syed case, which inspired the popular ‘Serial’ podcast. Academy Award nominee Amy Berg (“Deliver Us from Evil”) will direct.
“The Case Against Adnan Syed” will run to four hours. Working Title TV and Instinct Productions are producing, and NBC Universal International Studios are distributing the follow-up to the case, which will play on the Sky Atlantic channel in the U.K. and in the U.S. on HBO.
The series will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Syed. In production since 2015, the series will re-examine the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, the original police investigation, and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial.
Sky said the series will present new discoveries and “ground-breaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
“We’ll be offering viewers a compelling window into one of the most talked about murder cases in recent years,” said Sky’s director of programming Zai Bennett. “The hugely talented Amy Berg has unprecedented access to those closest to the investigation, which is sure to make unmissable viewing.”
Nick Cave will provide original music for the series. It will be exec-produced by Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan for Instinct Productions and Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn for Working Title TV.
Sky, Europe’s largest pay TV operator, and HBO have a $250 million co-production deal and are working together on various projects. The pair recently announced Julia Davis comedy “Sally4Ever,” nuclear disaster drama “Chernobyl” is in production.
Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was the focus of the popular Serial podcast, will be profiled in a forthcoming four-part investigative docuseries from HBO Documentary Films and European network Sky.
Directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg, The Case Against Adnan Syed explores the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.
Featured in the docuseries are interviews with Syed; the defense team; Syed’s family, friends and former teachers; and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.
Instinct’s Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan serve as executive producers alongside Working Title’s Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn.
NBCUniversal International Distribution will distribute The Case Against Adnan Syed internationally.
In June 2016, a Baltimore Circuit Court Judge vacated Syed’s conviction and granted him a new trial after new evidence challenged the reliability of cell phone data linking Syed to the crime scene, and a long-awaited alibi witness took the stand. On March 29, 2018, the Court of Special Appeals also ruled to vacate Syed’s conviction and granted him a retrial 18 years after first being convicted.
Produced by Working Title TV and Instinct Productions, the project will re-examine Lee’s disappearance and murder, the original police investigation, and the present day while Syed, 36, awaits a new trial.
Berg has been in production on The Case Against Adnan Syed since 2015 and the series will offer “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
HBO is taking on one of the most famous cases in America with The Case Against Adnan Syed. The cable channel is partnering with Sky for a four-hour documentary series directed by Oscar nominee Amy Berg.
The series will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. The case gripped the nation when it became the subject of the popular podcast Serial. The documentary has been in production since 2015. According to HBO, The Case Against Adnan Syed re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, including the high school romance, cultural conflict and then the aftermath of her disappearance.
Syed is currently awaiting a new trial. According to HBO, the documentary will present new discoveries, “as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case” and will include “exclusive access to Syed, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.”
During the fall of 2014, it seemed nearly impossible to go anywhere without falling into a conversation about the enthralling podcast “Serial,” which debuted in October of that year to a seemingly immediate (and obsessed) audience. Now the series is getting a small screen followup, thanks to HBOand Sky. The cable giants have now announced “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” a four-hour documentary series directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg (best known for her other crime documentaries “Deliver Us from Evil” and “West of Memphis”).
Per its official synopsis, the series “will offer a cinematic look at the life and 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and conviction of Adnan Syed, from the genesis of their high school relationship, to the original police investigation and trial, through to the current day, when Syed faces a new trial after serving 18 years in jail.” The series also includes “exclusive access to Adnan Syed, his family and his lawyers,” as Berg “has been closely following their efforts to obtain justice, with the outcome still to be determined — and possibly shaped by the investigation pursued within the series itself.”
The new series will reportedly include “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
Per its official synopsis, the series “will offer a cinematic look at the life and 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and conviction of Adnan Syed, from the genesis of their high school relationship, to the original police investigation and trial, through to the current day, when Syed faces a new trial after serving 18 years in jail.” The series also includes “exclusive access to Adnan Syed, his family and his lawyers,” as Berg “has been closely following their efforts to obtain justice, with the outcome still to be determined — and possibly shaped by the investigation pursued within the series itself.”
Berg has been in production on the series since 2015, charting the various machinations and breakthroughs that have marked the case, including the latest twist.
Per an official press release, “In June 2016, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Adnan Syed’s conviction and granted him a new trial after new evidence challenged the reliability of cell phone data linking Syed to the crime scene, and a long-awaited alibi witness finally had her day in court. The State of Maryland appealed the lower court judge’s ruling, but on March 29, 2018, the Court of Special Appeals also ruled to vacate Syed’s conviction and granted him the retrial he has been waiting for.”
The series will also include original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. An official air date has not yet been announced.
EXCLUSIVE: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, a man who knows a thing or two about writing about the wealthy, has set his sights on the richest family in history for his next project.
I hear that Fellowes is developing a TV series about the Rothschild banking dynasty, who, in one generation, rose from the deprivation of the ghetto to become the richest and most powerful family in history. Fellowes is collaborating on the script with Ian Kelly (Mr Foote’s Other Leg).
The drama series is understood to be in development with Sky Atlantic.
The family saga is one of the ultimate rags-to-riches tales, set against the backdrop of war and revolution. It tells the story of how the family became to possess the largest private fortune in the world during the 19th century.
The family gained pre-eminence in the bullion trade during the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815 and Nathan Mayer Rothschild almost single-handedly financed the British war effort. It will also tell the story of European Jewry and the triumph over antisemitism as well as portray a story about human relationships, fraternal struggles for dominance, of brilliant but disenfranchised women, of generational conflict, of incestuous alliances and of forbidden love with outsiders.
Khan also knows a thing or two about dynastic families, having been born Jemima Goldsmith, the eldest child of Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart and banker Sir James Goldsmith, whose family made its money in merchant banking in the 16th century. The European editor-at-large of Vanity Fair and associate editor of the New Statesman launched Instinct Productions with Princess Productions founder Henrietta Conrad this year and Five Arrows is its first project.
Khan was previously the exec producer of the BAFTA-nominated documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks by Alex Gibney and co-produced Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars & Making A Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA and the play, Drones, Baby, Drones at The Arcola Theatre.