Popular Politics and the Clinton/Lewinsky Affair: The Implications for Leadership



The Clinton/Lewinsky scandal unfolded in an era of “new media” politics that presented fresh and often unanticipated challenges for presidential leadership. New media actors, such as call-in talk radio and TV hosts, tabloid journalists, and Internet gossip columnists, played a significant role in scandal politics. They influenced the framework within which stories were reported and perceived by the public. New media channels, in particular, framed the events leading up to the presidential impeachment in terms of dramatic, prime time–style entertainment. This entertainment news frame allowed citizens to compartmentalize their perceptions of President Clinton as a leader versus a private individual involved in a sex scandal. Media Politics can explain, at least in part, President Clinton's strong job performance evaluations in the midst of one of the most publicized political scandals of the century.