On November 21, William J. Bennett, conservative author and nationally syndicated radio host, falsely claimed six times that former President Bill Clinton committed "perjury" or a "felony" for lying under oath. Bennett appeared on FOX Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday opposite Robert B. Reich, former Clinton administration Labor secretary, to discuss Clinton's legacy three days after the November 18 opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.
As Media Matters for America has noted, the Senate acquitted Clinton on both articles of impeachment, one of which was perjury. In order for a lie under oath to amount to perjury -- as Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) explained on the floor of the Senate on February 12, 1999 -- it must be "material" to the underlying case. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled that Clinton's deposition in the Monica Lewinsky case was immaterial to the sexual harassment suit that Paula Jones brought against Clinton.
From the November 21 edition of FOX News Sunday:
BENNETT: [R]emember, the reason for him to resign wasn't a relentless prosecutor. He was impeached. He lied under oath. He committed a felony while in office, the chief executive legal officer of the land.
BENNETT: [H]e lied under oath. Lying under oath is letting the American people down. Committing a felony, committing perjury when you're president, is letting the American people down. And there isn't any question about it.
I don't think you can say you can't let a felony, an act of perjury, consistent lying, something like that shouldn't overshadow your presidency.
People give a lot of leeway to people in public life. They understand that people, you know, come as sinners and they will sin continually, whether they're in public life or private life.
But they do have certain lines that you can't cross. One of them is, I think, lying under oath, perjury, high crimes. That is a serious business.
Bennett has made the claim numerous times that Clinton committed a felony. On the October 10, 1998, edition of CNBC's Tim Russert, when Russert asked Bennett about calling Clinton a "liar," an "adulterer," and a "felon," as he did on the August 23, 1998, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Bennett said: "Lying under oath in certain circumstances is a -- is a felon -- a felony, and so is perjury." On the November 4, 1998, edition of CNN's Larry King Live when King confronted Bennett with exit polling from the 1998 elections that showed that "only 39 percent of the voters want the impeachment hearings to even continue; 58 percent say end them," Bennett replied that he was "disappointed, because I think given what we know, and given what the president did, there should be not just more dismay and distress, but there should be some measure of outrage. ...[R]emember what we're talking about is felonies, lying under oath, perjury ..." On August 15, 2000, during the Democratic National Convention, Bennett complained on FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor that Clinton did not apologize for his "felonies" during Clinton's convention speech. When host Bill O'Reilly noted that Clinton "doesn't see it that way," Bennett said: "Well, it doesn't matter if he sees it that way. ... Facts are facts." During MSNBC's Decision 2000: Democratic National Convention coverage the same day, Bennett said: "He [Clinton] hasn't apologized for the perjury, for the felony."