Below are spoilers for Episode 10 of Impeachment: An American Crime Story. Check out the full review of this series here.
In the season finale of Impeachment: An American Crime Story Tuesday, titled Wilderness, Betty Curry makes a brief appearance, quietly spending an urgent morning as President Clinton and his advisers prepare to publish the explosive report by independent attorney Kenneth Starr. Congress that filed the Clinton impeachment case.
It’s easy to miss her. Throughout the season, which recalls the events leading up to the 1998 impeachment and the women caught in the media maelstrom around him, viewers could catch a glimpse of Curry’s discretion and dedication in her role as White House secretary during the Clinton administration. Administrative assistants are considered the most important person in the office, loyal gatekeepers who often have access to sensitive information, and Impeachment draws on Curry’s quiet influence to create her portrait. Portrayed by Ray Dong Chong, Curry, unlike the other women depicted on the show, does not have much of a dramatic moment, but her name is mentioned over and over – in phone calls, interviews, grand jury testimony – to highlight what she was watching. … was critical to the impeachment saga and the series’ storyline.
“She plays a huge role in this story,” says Chong, whose mother was an assistant to a senior corporate executive. “She is present in everything. You constantly hear people say, “Well, Betty …”, “Call Betty,” or “Did you get in touch with Betty?” or “Betty did it …” I thought, “Oh, this part was bigger than I thought. This is an incredible lesson: if people talk about you, then you are participating in it. “
Indeed, as a woman who sat at the Oval Office throughout the Clinton administration, Curry became a key figure in one of the most notorious political sex scandals in American history, mediating between Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
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“Betty Curry is in a stalemate,” says lead writer Sarah Burgess. “She was forced to accompany the president, arranging a meeting with this person. [Monica Lewinsky], sometimes with or without her [Betty’s] knowledge, and Monica called Betty because she couldn’t call Bill Clinton directly. Betty answered those calls and developed a relationship with Monica. Underneath all this, of course, lies a fear of anything about it. And it shouldn’t have been on Betty’s shoulders, but to some extent it was. … I really wish we could get her testimony on the show because there is a famous photograph of Betty being escorted to the courthouse and being attacked by the press. The difference between Betty Curry and Linda Tripp is that Betty, I think, was incredibly reserved and kept everything very, very confidential; Linda, to put it mildly, did not make that choice. “
Curry never wrote a book about her experiences during this period, so Burgess relied on testimony from a grand jury to create the theatrical version, as well as an interview with Kerry at the University of Virginia in 2006.
“I’ve always written to Betty from the point of view that she should want it to be contained,” Burgess says. “I think this is someone who felt loyalty and real affection for Bill Clinton, who was reputedly very kind to her, and so it must have been upsetting on some level, but you don’t see it at all. and you don’t feel. I just love all the complexity that Ray Dawn brings to this business. “
The Times article on Curry in January 1998, “Clinton’s Trusted Gatekeeper,” examined her role in the affair that shrouded the Clinton presidency, and described some of her work as “zealously defending presidential secrets.” He quotes a White House spokesman: “She is a very trusted person. When you get the “Call Betty” message, this is an important page to return. “
Before being brought to the forefront, as reported by The Times, Currie spent nearly three decades in several federal departments, including the Navy, the Postal Service, and ACTION, an agency that included the Peace Corps, and retired with 1984 year. a losing Democratic presidential campaign by Walter F. Mondale and Michael S. Dukakis, volunteering and working at a Washington department store, she entered Clinton’s orbit working for campaign strategist James Carville and transition leader Warren Christopher. Secretary in January 1993
“I do not hear evil, I see no evil, do not speak evil”
The show sets a dynamic that has developed between Lewinsky and Curry, with the latter facilitating calls and meetings between the former trainee and Clinton. Episode 4 includes a scene inspired by a real-life incident in December 1997 in which Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) appears unannounced at the White House hoping to see Clinton, and an annoyed Kerry tells Lewinsky that he is unavailable while watching “GI”. Jane “with her daughter Chelsea. Lewinsky later calls Currie at her home, angered by Clinton’s failed promise to secure her return to the White House. Clinton, upon learning of the call, scolds Lewinsky for how she treated Curry: “Who the hell do you think you are? Betty came under Jim Crow South to work in the damn White House to be yelled at by some … 24-year-old guy. ”
“I watched the fourth episode. We only have scenarios in which we are involved, so I never knew that he [Clive Owen as Bill Clinton] says, “You made Betty cry,” says Chong, an industry veteran whose recent work includes 9-1-1 and Better Deeds. “And I was really touched by that because one of the main themes of my understanding of her was her story, the fact that she is a black woman in an extremely powerful world. And just knowing that the church ladies are not you trying to drink your tea, but not someone else’s. And I feel like for me that was the main theme about Betty Curry, her feeling of “not hearing evil, not seeing evil, not speaking evil.” .. to wine. “
“This is a violation”
Given her closeness to the president and the nature of her work, Curry was seen as an important link in the obstruction of justice charges against Clinton.
Curry, along with other Clinton aides, was summoned to appear on a federal grand jury. She appeared on Starr’s application five times to investigate the nature of Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, and whether they lied about it under oath or encouraged others to do so. Curry’s testimony became especially important after Clinton’s testimony in the Paula Jones case, in which he was asked about Lewinsky, as it would allow prosecutors to compare testimony and reveal inconsistencies.
Her testimony showed that the aide remained committed to his role. “Although her testimony provided Starr with key details of Clinton’s dating with Lewinsky, prosecutors could never get her to turn against her boss,” The Times wrote in October 1998.
“She was criticized for not remembering certain things,” Burgess said. “She was accused of protecting the Clintons.”
In episode 7, in which Clinton prepares to testify before Starr’s prosecution team, Clinton seats Curry in the Oval Office to figure out what she plans to tell Starr. Without saying this directly, he offers what he expects from her, asking her to recall his meeting with Lewinsky.
“I felt as insulted as Betty when he approached her,” Chong says. “I was just as broken as she is. I thought that with her story, her dignity, her love and her intelligence, and then with the awkward, awful position that he puts everyone in, it was not so hard to understand that this was a violation. So it was not difficult to get it. I think she was very disappointed that he didn’t take the high road. ”
From Starr’s report:
At about 5:00 pm on Sunday, January 18, Ms. Curry went to meet with President Clinton at the White House. She told the grand jury:
“He said that yesterday he had a testimony and they asked a few questions about Monica Lewinsky. And I was a little shocked by this. He asked me a few questions. ” According to Ms Curry, the President then told her in turn:
• “You were always there when she was there, right? In fact, we have never been alone. “
• “You could see and hear everything.”
• “Monica came up to me and I never touched her, right?”
• “She wanted to have sex with me, and I can’t do it.”
Ms Curry indicated that these comments were “more like statements than questions.” Ms. Curry concluded that the President wanted her to agree with him. She based this conclusion on how he made most of the statements and on his demeanor. Ms Curry also said that she felt the president made these remarks to see her reaction.
Life after the White House
After Clinton’s term as president came to an end in 2001, Curry has largely returned to an anonymous life, living in Maryland with her husband and daughter. But her ties to the Clintons have not faded, in part because she adopted the Sox family cat when the president left office. (Socks died in 2009.)
Curry has worked with local nonprofits and was appointed to the St. Mary County, Maryland Alcohol Board in 2008. In the same year, she returned to Washington to help John Podesta, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff during his time, to facilitate the transition of President-elect Barack Obama.