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Key words: Character, rules, President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr, Rush Limbaugh, Jay Leno, Ron Kurtus, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions

Lack of Character in the Clinton-Lewinsky Affair

by Ron Kurtus (revised 9 May 2014)

Part of a 1998 investigation of then U.S. President Bill Clinton included his sexual involvement with the 23-year old intern, Monica Lewinsky. This investigation exposed the lack of character of many people involved and even those commenting about the news event.

Not only did President Clinton and Miss Lewinsky show poor character, but also her confidant Linda Tripp and special prosecutor Ken Starr demonstrated a lack of character, as well as Tonight Show host Jay Leno.

We can learn from this event and try to maintain more dignity and character in the future.

Questions you may have about this are:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Rules of behavior and character

The character of a person is usually judged by others, according to what they think is right or wrong.

Don't deceive or demean

It is generally accepted that you should not tell lies or deceive other people, you should not cheat in a test or cheat others out of money, and you should not cheat in your relationship with your spouse.

It is also wrong to insult, degrade or pick on another person, especially those who are defenseless to fight back, as well as to laugh at or demean those people. It is also wrong for an official to be mean-spirited in dealing with lower-level people.

Disgusting behavior

People who break these rules and exhibit such type of behavior are generally considered disgusting and thought to have poor character traits. This is especially true in the case of public figures, to whom a higher set of standards is usually applied.

Clinton-Lewinsky affair

A number of negative character traits were displayed among the participants during and after the affair between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

President Clinton

President Bill Clinton showed a great lack of character through a number of transgressions.

For a married man to have sexual relations with other women is certainly a lack of moral character.

For a mature person in a position of power to take advantage of a 23-year-old intern shows little character or conscience.

For the President of the United States to tell a baldfaced lie to the American public by saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" was not only a disgrace to the Office of the Presidency, but it was also a display of lack of character.

Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky showed a lack of character in her actions.

To have romantic interests in a married man in an effort to gain status is morally and ethically wrong.

To lie under oath was not only criminal, but it also showed a lack of character.

Linda Tripp

Monica Lewinsky confided concerns about her relationship with Clinton to co-worker Linda Tripp, who is 24 years older than Lewinsky. Tripp encouraged Lewinsky for more details and then secretly recorded their telephone conversations, which she then turned in to special prosecutor Ken Starr.

Whether Tripp's motives were for personal gain, politica or—as she claimed—for patriotic reasons, one still has to wonder about her character.

To purposely deceive a much younger woman into confiding in her showed a lack or moral character, as well as common decency.

To secretly record conversations was probably against the law.

Ken Starr and associates

The Clinton-Lewinsky investigation was attributed to Ken Starr, but much of the work was put on the shoulders of "young Turks" on his staff. Since this was done behind closed doors, we can't completely judge what happened. One disgusting show of lack of character concerned the interview with Monica Lewinsky's mother.

To interrogate Monica Lewinsky's mother and present her with a history of the sexual behavior of her daughter—to the point that Mrs. Lewinsky collapsed in court and had to be taken out of the courtroom in a wheelchair—was disgraceful abuse of power and display of complete lack of decency by the attorneys involved.

It it too bad that no one had the temerity or courage to speak up for Mrs. Lewinsky.

What was needed in this situation was someone like Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch, who addressed Senator Joe McCarthy during the McCarthy Hearings in the 1950s.

He told McCarthy, concerning his browbeating and destroying the lives of witnesses, "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Jay Leno

Jay Leno and other comedians made jokes about the affair. But Tonight Show host Leno also showed lack of character in remarks concerning the victims of Clinton's indiscretions.

To make fun of the looks of Paula Jones and Linda Tripp or the weight problem of Monica Lewinsky was a disappointing display of lack of character by Leno. Note that he never made fun of the looks of celebrities, politicians or people of power, but instead picked on private citizens who had no forum to defend themselves.

Many people in the general public laughed at Leno's jokes. Also, there are a large number of websites devoted to jokes about the affair. They too are guilty.

Lessons learned

We cannot change history or the way people acted during a series of events. But we can learn from how those people acted, so we do not accept such negative behavior in the future. Some of the preferred behavior and character traits are as follows.

President Clinton

He should have never thought of having relations outside of his marriage. If he did make such a mistake, he should have admitted it to the American public and asked for forgiveness. People would not like what he did, but they would think much higher of him. Right now, he will go down in history as a liar.

Monica Lewinsky

She should have had the moral courage to reject the advances of an older, married man, even if he is the President of the United States. She may not have become famous (or infamous), but at least she could hold her head up high without being ridiculed and scorned.

Linda Tripp

She should have given Monica the advice of a mature woman and told her to stop her relationship with the President instead of seeing it as an opportunity to pick a political bone. On the other hand, if it was a case of actual criminal activity, there is a moral dilemma concerning spying on a friend.

Ken Starr and associates

The lawyers had a job to do and they should remain neutral in their efforts to obtain the facts and respectful to all those called before them. Instead of doing their job with professional dignity, the investigators lowered themselves to the gutter. Although Ken Starr was not necessarily the instigator, he was running the ship and will go down in history as a negative character.

Jay Leno

Jay can make as many jokes about dignitaries and celebrities as he wants, but he would have shown more class if he wouldn't have stooped to degrading private citizens and victims.


There are character traits and rules of behavior that good people are expected to follow. Participants in the the investigation of the affair that U.S. President Bill Clinton had with intern Monica Lewinsky showed a lack of character. Studying this event can help set standards for proper behavior and character so that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Be proud of your actions

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


A Chronology: Key Moments In The Clinton-Lewinsky Saga - CNN

Lewinski scandal - Wikipedia

Character Resources


Top-rated books on Bill Clinton

Top-rated books on Character

Questions and comments

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