MSNBC Host on 'Today': 'Every Time Lewinsky is Mentioned, It is Good for Hillary Clinton'

During a report on Thursday's NBC Today about Monic Lewinsky's article in Vanity Fair magazine, correspondent Peter Alexander touted liberal spin that the former Bill Clinton mistress speaking out would actually help Hillary Clinton's political prospects: "Clinton watcher Ruth Marcus argues Lewinsky has done Hillary a big favor." A soundbite followed of the Washington Post columnist proclaiming: "Now if there's a Hillary Clinton campaign for president in 2016, we can move on from the Lewinsky scandal of yore."

In a discussion segment that followed Alexander's report, co-host Matt Lauer wondered to  MSNBC host Alex Wagner: "How does this article, this essay, impact Hillary Clinton should she run for office in 2016?" Wagner argued: "Every time Lewinsky is mentioned, it is good for Hillary Clinton. It reminds everybody of her major accomplishments on the world stage. And people tend to be more sympathetic to Hillary Clinton than Monica Lewinsky because she is the woman scorned." [Listen to the audio]

Wagner's declaration was reminiscent of Washington Post reporter Dan Balz parroting Democratic talking points to NBC political director Chuck Todd on Monday's MSNBC Daily Rundown that the Benghazi scandal "could actually be good for Clinton."

Appearing with Wagner on Thursday's Today, Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace rejected such crass partisan spin:

I'm really uncomfortable looking at this in only political terms. And so, I'm going to refrain from offering a political analysis. And I think this article reminds us that there was a 22-year-old woman, Monica Lewinsky, whose life was irreparably altered by her encounter with the Clintons.

Earlier in the exchange, Lauer highlighted Lewinsky denouncing the feminist movement for not supporting her during the 1998 scandal: "...given the issues at play – gender politics, sex in the workplace – you'd think they would have spoken up..."

Wagner responded by gloating:

...we think, you know, the narrative written about this moment in American history favors Bill Clinton, to be truthful about it. I mean, Monica Lewinsky has spent the last twenty years effectively being kryptonite. Here is a man who has ascended to the highest levels of, you know, global profile, and Monica Lewinsky has not been able to restart her life. And it does prompt questions about, you know, who – if she was a victim, whether she was given her due.

Wallace replied: "And it's amazing to me that even when this article came out this week – I think the full article is out this morning – the only people that are getting blamed or muddied by it are Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton was involved too." Lauer added: "And gets a pass on this." Wallace remarked: "Always."    

Here is a full transcript of the May 8 segment with Wagner and Wallace:

7:33 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Alex Wagner is the host of MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner and Nicolle Wallace served as White House communications director for George W. Bush and a campaign advisor to Senator John McCain. Hi, ladies. Good morning.

ALEX WAGNER: Hey, Matt.

NICOLLE WALLACE: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Lewinsky's Legacy & 2016; What Does Article Mean for Possible Hillary Run?]

LAUER: Why do you think Monica Lewinsky wrote this essay now?

WAGNER: I feel like there's been a lot of Lewinsky in the air. Whether it's Senator Rand Paul and his comments about Bill Clinton being a sexual predator, I feel like, you know, there is constant Hillary talk that only is going to ramp up as we get closer to 2016. And this is a woman who feels like she's been sidelined and marginalized.

LAUER: She says she's written it only for herself, not for anyone else. Lynne Cheney thinks the Clintons had a hand in this, in the timing, so they can get this out of the way now, before a run for Hillary Clinton.  

WALLACE: Yeah, listen, political operatives are never quite as scheming as people give them credit for being. I think that what she writes is the truth. She's been waiting for a moment when the Clintons aren't on the national political stage and realizes that they will be on the national political stage for infinity. So if not now, then when?

LAUER: Let's talk about the "what" in the essay now. She writes about the relationship with then-President Bill Clinton, "It was an authentic connection, with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged. In my early 20s, I was too young to understand the real-life consequences and too young to see that I would be sacrificed for political expediency." Doesn't that take the Clintons out of having a hand in this right off the bat?

WALLACE: Yeah, this is not a good story for the Clintons. And this is not a story that they can get over and get past. If voters decide they want to hear more about it, that will determine the arch of the story more than anything else.

WAGNER: I feel like I disagree with that. I mean, I think Monica Lewinsky is an accepted truth about the Clintons. And this is a woman who spends a lot of time in that article trying to get past the trauma of her early twenties and move on and talk about the online harassment that plagues many young people today.

LAUER: I want to get your – both of your take on this. When she talks about at the height of the scandal, quote, "I sorely wish for some sign of understanding from the feminist camp...given the issues at play – gender politics, sex in the workplace – you'd think they would have spoken up...I understood their dilemma: Bill Clinton had been a president 'friendly' to women's causes."

WAGNER: I mean, I think in retrospect – I'd love to get Nicolle's view on this, too – we think, you know, the narrative written about this moment in American history favors Bill Clinton, to be truthful about it. I mean, Monica Lewinsky has spent the last twenty years effectively being kryptonite. Here is a man who has ascended to the highest levels of, you know, global profile, and Monica Lewinsky has not been able to restart her life. And it does prompt questions about, you know, who – if she was a victim, whether she was given her due.

WALLACE: And it's amazing to me that even when this article came out this week – I think the full article is out this morning – the only people that are getting blamed or muddied by it are Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton was involved too.

LAUER: And gets a pass on this.

WALLACE: Always.

LAUER: As she puts it, he comes out – they come out, the Clintons, "as one of the most celebrated powerful political couples of our time." And she has, "a scarlet albatross around her neck."

Real quickly, how does this article, this essay, impact Hillary Clinton should she run for office in 2016?

WAGNER: Every time Lewinsky is mentioned, it is good for Hillary Clinton. It reminds everybody of her major accomplishments on the world stage. And people tend to be more sympathetic to Hillary Clinton than Monica Lewinsky because she is the woman scorned.  

WALLACE: I'm really uncomfortable looking at this in only political terms. And so, I'm going to refrain from offering a political analysis. And I think this article reminds us that there was a 22-year-old woman, Monica Lewinsky, whose life was irreparably altered by her encounter with the Clintons.

LAUER: Nicolle Wallace, Alex Wagner, thank you ladies. Appreciate it. You can catch Now with Alex Wagner weekdays at 4 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.