Politics

Strickland Called Clinton-Lewinsky Affair ‘Reprehensible,’ Condemned ‘False Statements’ by Former President

Democrat signed 1998 letter with colleagues calling for formal censure by Congress

Ted Strickland
Ted Strickland / AP

Ted Strickland, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio and a Hillary Clinton ally, once criticized former President Bill Clinton for making "false statements" about his "reprehensible" affair with a White House intern.

Strickland and other high-profile Democratic members of Congress signed a 1998 letter to House leadership recently obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that condemned Clinton for lying about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, pushing for a vote of censure, or formal disapproval.

The strong language of the letter comes as Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.), Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election, receives scrutiny for critical statements he made about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair in 2002.

The letter, included in the archive of Strickland’s congressional papers at Ohio University, was sent four days before the House voted to impeach Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was ultimately acquitted of the charges by the Senate in February 1999.

"The President’s actions were wrong," the Dec. 16 letter, signed by Strickland and 69 other Democrats, read. "It was wrong for him to make false statements concerning his reprehensible conduct with a subordinate. And it was wrong for him to take steps to delay the discovery of the truth."

"For some members, a vote of conscience is a vote of censure. We are certain that the President’s actions should be condemned, and that a fitting punishment would be a formal censure by the entire Congress," the lawmakers wrote.

"We ask that you make a censure resolution in order when the House votes on articles of impeachment this week," they wrote. "We should not be denied the right to vote our conscience."

The lawmakers emphasized that "party identification should not be–and must not be–the deciding factor" on such a vote of conscience.

While Strickland voted against all articles of impeachment in December, his and other Democrats’ condemnation of Clinton’s behavior could create problems as they seek to align themselves with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. The letter was signed by a number of prominent Democrats, including current Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), now House minority leader.

Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who lost to Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, also signed the letter.

Strickland has appeared alongside Clinton at numerous events, introducing her at a rally in Cleveland last Wednesday. Strickland’s campaign, which is challenging incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), has relied on Clinton’s top bundlers for funds.

Strickland represented Ohio’s 6th district in Congress from 1993 to 1994 and 1997 to 2006, and went on to serve one term as the state’s governor, leaving office in 2011.

Strickland’s administration weathered its own scandal when former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann was forced to resign in 2008 after admitting to an extramarital affair with a subordinate. Strickland expressed "extreme disappointment" and "some anger" following the revelations, according to a report from the Toledo Blade at the time. Strickland also led calls for Dann to resign or face impeachment.

"I think it’s important for Democrats to send a very clear message that we will clean our own house," Strickland said at the time, according to the Associated Press.

Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky has recently been drawn back into news headlines as Hillary Clinton campaigns to become the first woman president. Last week, the Daily Beast revealed that Kaine, the junior U.S. senator from Virginia and Clinton’s vice presidential pick, said in 2002 that politicians who have affairs, including Bill Clinton, should resign.

Kaine had described Clinton’s behavior as "not appropriate" and "beneath the dignity of the office" in remarks to the local Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kaine characterized the report as "true" last week in an interview with an ABC affiliate in eastern Iowa but said that he did not want to "relitigate" the case.

"I had some feelings of disappointment back then, but you know that’s now 20 years old and when I’m talking to people on the campaign trail they are not asking me about old controversies. They are asking me about tomorrow, what are we going to do tomorrow to have an economy that works for people," Kaine said in a separate interview with an ABC affiliate in Cedar Rapids.

"I hear a lot: ‘What are we going to do to make sure we have a community that respects all?’ So, past controversies aren’t that important to me now."

A representative for Strickland’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment by press time.