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Flashback: Bill Clinton in 2001 Said He ‘Never Had More Money’

The former president claims in a new interview that he faced financial hardship at the time

• June 4, 2018 5:11 pm

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Former President Bill Clinton said in a new interview that he was in dire financial straits after leaving office in 2001, contradicting private boasts he made that year about being flush with cash.

Clinton told NBC’s Craig Melvin that he was $16 million in debt in 2001 and chastised Melvin for not acknowledging that fact in an interview that aired Monday. But according to a contemporaneous account, Clinton told friends he "never had more money" during that time. In 2015, the Washington Free Beacon obtained recordings of long-time friend Taylor Branch saying Clinton happily shared he was getting rich giving speeches, and two of the recordings are reproduced above.

"He said he’s never had more money in his life. He’s made more money in the past month than he has in previous years, giving these speeches," Branch said in a recording made on March 7, 2001.

Clinton also had a book deal looming that would net him millions, making him confident in his financial situation. He was delaying inking the deal, however, because he was concerned about the publicity he would receive for the payout.

"I talked to [Clinton] about his book, and all he said was, more than once, ‘You wouldn’t believe the offers I’ve gotten,’" Branch said in a March 7, 2001 tape. "And he was still postponing them and holding them off because he knows there will be a burst of publicity about the amount of money involved in any book offer he takes."

But according to Clinton in the new interview, Melvin was not sympathetic enough to the difficulty he faced after going through an impeachment hearing and leaving the White House in debt. He said Melvin was giving "one side of the facts" by asking about Monica Lewinsky, the intern with whom he had a sexual relationship from 1995-1997.

"Nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million dollars in debt," Clinton said.

By complaining about his alleged debt, the former president echoed Hillary Clinton's comment that the couple was "dead broke" after leaving office.

The Clintons have rebuffed criticism for speech payouts in the past. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) made an issue out of the payouts during the Democratic presidential primary, and it continued to dog Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign. Bill Clinton defended his intention to keep accepting six-figure speech gigs in 2015 because he said he needed to "pay the bills."

Published under: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton