Document Dump

Olbermann Says Sorry & More Revelations in New Clinton Library Papers

A letter from the then-MSNBC anchor apologizing for his Lewinsky coverage, exasperation over Jimmy Carter, and more interesting documents from the Clinton White House.

On Friday, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library released its last batch of previously restricted documents from the 42nd president’s administration. The latest document dump included details about Monica Lewinsky’s tenure as a White House intern, a personal apology from Keith Olbermann to Clinton about his role covering the scandal, as well the White House’s exasperation with Jimmy Carter. Here are five of the biggest and most interesting revelations.


There are hundreds of pages of documents about Lewinsky in this latest release but only one was generated by her, “an official request to hang a picture of President Clinton signing the telecommunications bill” in her office. There is no documentation whether the request was granted, but there is ample discussion of the White House investigating whether it pushed the narrative that she was a stalker or if it emerged through other sources. Controversial White House aide Sidney Blumenthal eventually concluded “there is no evidence whatsoever that the White House was directing or involved in any campaign against her.”


Former MSNBC anchor and current ESPN personality Keith Olbermann wrote Bill Clinton a personal letter to apologize for “whatever part I may have played in perpetuating this ceaseless coverage [of the Lewinsky story].” The television host went on to pledge to Clinton that “I’ll be heading back to my previous career in sports as quickly as possible….” He kept that pledge. Shortly afterward, he left MSNBC for Fox Sports Net. However Olbermann soon returned to MSNBC, where he was one of the network’s marquee names for eight years before eventually returning to sports and ESPN again.


In the aftermath of U.S. missile strikes in Sudan against a facility believed to be producing chemical weapons in 1998, former President Jimmy Carter called for a full investigation. The result prompted White House staffers to complain about Carter in an email with the sarcastic subject line “Oh yeah, Carter’s on the case…” They eventually decided briefing Carter in the future might “at least mitigate any future remarks.”


In an email to a reporter, Blumenthal tried to plant a negative story about conservative Lucianne Goldberg, who played a crucial role in publicizing the Lewinsky affair. Blumenthal pushed stories about Goldberg, a former literary agent, stealing money from a client, while also being tied to conspiracy theories about the death of former White House aide Vince Foster. In another email pushing back on a story that appeared in The Guardian, Blumenthal had less than kind words about Christopher Hitchens, writing that late author “willfully… ignores all facts [about the Lewinsky scandal] to continue his psychodrama.”


In 1999, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote Clinton a letter encouraging him “to speak for quality television and support stations that offer such programming.” A note at the top urged “a quick/warm response,” as Huckabee “hates” Clinton and also is contemplating a Senate run against Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Huckabee never did run for the Senate, although there’s no evidence to indicate that it had anything to do with White House responding or not responding to his letter.