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Degrees of separation: what connects Bill Clinton to Patty Hearst?

·2-min read

Impeachment: American Crime Story
It’s back to the 1990s for the latest instalment of American Crime Story (ACS), the series that recreates lurid episodes of recent history. This time it’s the trials of Bill Clinton: his affair with Monica Lewinsky; alleged sexual harassment of Paula Jones; and eventual impeachment.

President Bill Clinton salutes a crowd in February 1999.
President Bill Clinton salutes a crowd in February 1999. Photograph: Reuters

Lewinsky, Jones, Tripp
Clive Owen plays Bill, with Edie Falco as Hillary, but the focus is on Booksmart’s Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky and Annaleigh Ashford as Jones. Central, too, is Linda Tripp, who spilled some beans and is portrayed by Sarah Paulson, who seems legally required to appear in all prestige mini-series.

Beanie Feldstein in Impeachment: American Crime Story Season 3.
Beanie Feldstein as Clinton inamorata Monica Lewinsky in American Crime Story’s Impeachment. Photograph: Alamy

‘Juice!’
Paulson previously played Marcia Clark, the put-upon prosecutor, opposite Cuba Gooding Jr’s OJ Simpson in the star-filled ACS recreation of the 1995 murder trial that captivated the US. For a starker view, see Ezra Edelman’s masterful documentary OJ: Made in America. Both the Simpson and Clinton series use books by Jeffrey Toobin as source material.

The people versus OJ Simpson, American Crime Story.
Cuba Gooding Jr in previous ACS series The People v OJ Simpson… Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Jeffrey Toobin
Toobin was a high-profile writer at the New Yorker until a self-inflicted sex scandal last year, involving an unfortunate Zoom call during the Covid pandemic and his unwitting work colleagues. Though he was later fired from the magazine, he continues to work as a legal analyst at CNN and has a back catalogue of books, including American Heiress: the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst.

Jeffrey Toobin in 2018.
…based on a book by Jeffrey Tobin, who also wrote one about Patty Hearst. Photograph: Invision/AP

Another crime story
The 1974 kidnapping of Hearst has inspired books and films. In captivity Hearst collaborated with her captors, the revolutionary Symbionese Liberation Army: she was jailed for taking part in bank robberies – F Lee Bailey represented her at trial. Later he would defend Simpson (Nathan Lane played him on TV). After 22 months, her sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter; in 2001, Clinton pardoned her. ACS series four just wrote, and cast, itself …

F Lee Bailey in 1975.
Hearst was represented at trail by F Lee Bailey, who later defended Simpson. Photograph: Alamy

Listen Season two of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast is a fascinating deep dive into the machinations of Clinton’s impeachment.

Eat A 1992 New York Times profile of Clinton noted his appetite for food, including that at Sims barbecue joint in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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