To those of us who have conducted interviews with celebrities, Bill Clinton's reaction to questions he was asked about Monica Lewinsky in an interview seen Monday on “The Today Show” felt familiar.
He seemed surprised at the questions, and then bristled at them, because he may have been under the impression that the interview would be entirely benign and focused solely on this new thriller he has co-authored with James Patterson.
Celebrities often feel this way. They go into interviews like this one assuming that their questioners are only too eager to breezily ask them softball questions that will help them promote their latest project -- a book, a movie, a TV show.
Then they feel blindsided when an actual journalist goes off the expected script to ask about subjects that are not so easy to talk about.
In Clinton's case, it was questions about his affair with Lewinsky in the 1990s and how it might have played out today in the #MeToo era that raised his hackles.
The questions were posed by NBC's Craig Melvin, who did a great job and did not waver in the face of the scolding tone Clinton took in the answers he gave.
Clinton's combative tone and the body language that he used (including finger-pointing and leaning in) ensured that this interview would take on a life of its own than if it had just been about this book, titled “The President is Missing.”
The interview was actually a three-person affair -- Melvin, Clinton and Patterson. The bestselling author even tried to intervene as the exchange between Melvin and the former president appeared to grow more heated.
The interview was conducted in New York last Sunday. A full, 22-minute version of it -- much of which was about the book -- is available to watch on NBCNews.com.
But when Monday morning came around, the pared-down version seen on “The Today Show” was all about the portion of the interview in which Clinton became testy over the Lewinsky and #MeToo questions.
Producers knew a good story when they saw one. As the week went on, the interview became a news story covered everywhere, which meant “Today” could readdress it again and again -- which it did.
For his part, Clinton got a chance to try and explain what happened when he appeared the next day -- on Tuesday -- on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS.
Late-night is always a better environment for a newsmaker than a morning news show, but at the same time, Colbert was pointed in his own questioning of the ex-president.
“It seemed tone-deaf to me,” Colbert said of Clinton's reaction to Melvin's questions, “because you seemed offended to be asked about this thing when, in all due respect, sir, your behavior was the most famous example of a powerful man sexually misbehaving in the workplace of my lifetime, so it doesn't seem surprising that the question would be asked.”
Despite that, Colbert and his studio audience both indicated their overwhelming support of the former president after his response to Colbert.
To sum up what he said, Clinton expressed remorse over what happened, reiterated that he has spent the better part of the last 18 years in pursuit of good works and repeated that, in his view, he has apologized enough.
Despite his desire to shift the attention of interviewers back to the book he co-authored with James Patterson, Clinton should be prepared to answer the same #MeToo questions many times during his current book tour, and probably beyond.