Sunday, June 20, 2004

Former President Bill Clinton lost his temper during a British TV interview, set to air this week, when he was quizzed repeatedly about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Mr. Clinton, who usually appears amiable in public, became visibly angry and rattled during the interview for the British Broadcasting Corp., particularly when interviewer David Dimbleby asked him whether his publicly declared contrition over the affair was genuine.

Mr. Clinton’s outrage at the line of questioning during the 50-minute interview, to be broadcast on the British TV show “Panorama” tomorrow night, lasted several minutes.

“As outbursts go, it is not just some flash that is over in an instant. It is something substantial and sustained,” said a BBC executive who has seen the interview, which was held in a New York hotel on Wednesday.

The interview was the first time that the former president has been seen losing his temper publicly over the issue of sexual liaisons with Miss Lewinsky.

Mr. Clinton initially responded to Mr. Dimbleby’s questions by launching a general attack on media intrusion.

When the interviewer persisted with the question of whether the politician was truly penitent, Mr. Clinton directed his anger towards Mr. Dimbleby. The atmosphere, which had been warm, turned chilly.

The BBC executive said: “He is visibly angry with Dimbleby’s line of questioning and some of that anger gets directed at Dimbleby himself.”

“It is memorable television, which will give the public a different insight into the president’s character. It will leave them wondering whether he is as contrite as he says he is about past events. Dimbleby manages to remain calm, and order is eventually restored.”

Mr. Clinton agreed to speak to “Panorama” as part of the publicity campaign for his 957-page autobiography “My Life,” which has a planned first run of 1.5 million copies.

The former president is making the rounds of U.S. TV networks as well, with an interview with Dan Rather airing last night on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

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