Strange things about Hillary and Bill Clinton's marriage

It's easy to throw around the term "power couple" when it comes to celebrity marriages, but not even Jay-Z and Beyoncé (Sorry, Beyhive!) can compare to the actual power that Hillary and Bill Clinton commanded during the course of their marriage. He served as governor of Arkansas and president of the United States; she served as a U.S. Senator for New York and the U.S. Secretary of State. She also ran for president twice and almost became America's first female commander in chief in 2016. As marriages between two wildly ambitious people often go, things haven't always been easy for these two. 

Their relationship's ups and downs have inspired TV shows and Broadway plays. They've weathered infidelity and tremendous debt and experienced periods of incredible popularity and, well, just the opposite. That said, the Clintons have shown that they're not like any other couple, and though their journey may get weirder and weirder over time, their intriguing approach to marriage has certainly made them a force with which to be reckoned.

It started with a wedding in their living room

While Bill and Hillary Clinton have been at the forefront of American politics for decades, their marriage had a very humble beginning. After reportedly refusing Bill's proposal three times, Hillary eventually said yes, and the two wed in the living room of their small Fayetteville, Ark. house in front of 14 friends. According to The Guardian, "He wore pinstripes and a wide 1970s tie. She wore a $53 department store dress picked out by her mother. There was no engagement ring, no gift registry, no official photographer or party planner." The reception was held at another friend's house, and like most weddings, there was a bit of family drama when Hillary's brother wound up in the "local drunk tank" after getting "pulled over on a DUI while driving her yellow Fiat."

Six months after the wedding, Bill decided to make a run for state attorney general, and the ambitious newlyweds reportedly got to work planning an election strategy at the dinner table. According to The Guardian, they called it the "war room," and if you watched Netflix's House of Cards at all, this scenario is probably sounding pretty familiar.

Hillary got Bill to the top, but it cost her

The Clintons were skilled politicians when it came time for Bill to run for president. They even worked together to develop a strategy to shift the focus away from accusations that Bill had an affair with lounge singer Gennifer Flowers. In a 60 Minutes interview following the Super Bowl in 1992, Hillary came to her husband's defense. "You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," she said (via Politico). "I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck — don't vote for him." According to Politico, "What she did on 60 Minutes saved his candidacy and his political career. Most agree he would not have become president without it."

But analysts argue that Hillary's image took a hit that stuck to her image like a was of gum on the bottom of her shoe. "In 10 minutes of television, she projected a set of complicated, even conflicting images — forthright but defensive, feisty but dutiful — triggering the mix of skeptical, antagonistic feelings that have defined her with a share of the American public ever since," said Politico. "Bill Clinton was the duck. Hillary Clinton was the decoy," The Guardian reported. 

By the way, Bill admitted to that affair years later. And one more thing: Tammy Wynette was not happy with Hillary.

Hillary reportedly knew about Bill's multiple affairs

In another striking parallel to House of Cards, in which the Underwoods openly discuss their infidelities, later accounts of the Clintons' '92 campaign revealed that Hillary was allegedly well aware of her husband's philandering. In fact, multiple outlets reported that the couple shocked staffers by candidly addressing the issue.

As The New York Times reported, "Stanley Greenberg, a pollster for the campaign who had strategized with the Clintons in the fall of 1991 about how to handle the rumors of infidelity, recalled Mrs. Clinton's acknowledgment that her husband had strayed. 'It was an uncomfortable meeting,' Mr. Greenberg said in an interview for an oral history of Mr. Clinton's presidency conducted by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. 'I remember Hillary saying that, 'Obviously, if I could say no to this question, we would say no, and therefore, there is an issue.'"

Other reports suggest that Bill practically bragged about his affairs. According to U.S. News: "Betsey Wright, who was his chief of staff and one of Hillary's closest supporters … had a list of all the people that she knew that Bill had slept with when he was governor, and then she was stunned when she confronted Bill with this and he added to that list large numbers of names."

Hillary may have earned power by suffering through Bill's scandals

Even though she did stand by her man, Hillary Clinton may not have gone to bat for Bill Clinton entirely out of the goodness of her heart. According to Duke University history professor William Chafe, the first lady earned a significant amount of pull in the White House for her efforts. "He owed her because she had saved him." Chafe told U.S. News. "So in response to that, he talks about her being co-president and he ensures that she will have an office in the West Wing of the White House alongside Al Gore's office and his office." According to Vanity Fair, Bill often referred to his wife as a co-president of sorts, quipping, "Buy one, get one free!" at campaign fundraisers.  

Chafe said President Clinton even gave his wife "command of the healthcare task force," even though he and his advisers allegedly disagreed with the way she was handling the initiative. "But he is beholden to her and he really cannot challenge her," Chafe claimed. Essentially, he and other political analysts suggested that Hillary had become the most powerful woman in America by enduring the scandals and strange twists of the years preceding it.

Hillary reportedly never considered divorcing Bill

In 1998, Bill Clinton found himself embroiled in a massive political scandal when the Drudge Report broke a story that the then-president had an affair with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. It was an embarrassing moment for the Clintons that nearly led to Bill being forced out of office and cast a lasting shadow over their entire careers. During the course of the president's impeachment proceedings, it was made clear that an affair between Lewinsky and the president had, indeed, occurred. Bill also admitted to being unfaithful with Gennifer Flowers — the woman whose reputation he brutally assaulted in the past. One of the big questions connected to the controversy: Why did Hillary Clinton stay with her husband?

According to The Guardian, detailed notes – some 16 boxes worth — recorded by Hillary's longtime friend, the late Diane Blaire, reveal that divorce was not something the first lady seriously contemplated. "He has been her best friend for 25 years, her husband for 23 years, they're connected in every way imaginable, she feels strongly about him and family and Chelsea and marriage and she's just got to try to work it through," Blair wrote. "Because she's stubborn; partly her upbringing; partly her pride — but, mostly because she knows who she is and what her values and priorities are and she's straight with those — she really is OK."

Bill allegedly didn't stop cheating after Monica

Bill Clinton's 2004 memoir My Life detailed the damage and heartache he inflicted on his marriage after admitting to his affair with the White House intern. As his grand jury testimony approached, Bill said he "woke up Hillary and told her the truth about what had happened between me and Monica Lewinsky. She looked at me as if I had punched her in the gut." During an interview with 60 Minutes, the president said he "felt sick that she was having to defend me one more time … I did a bad thing. I made a terrible, moral error." 

However, rumor has it that Bill didn't change his cheating ways and engaged in yet another affair. The sketchy details about that one stem from former Secret Service Agent Bill Kessler, who claimed in his book, The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents, that a woman named Julie McMahon, aka the "Energizer," was granted a lot of access to Mr. Clinton, particularly when Mrs. Clinton wasn't around. McMahon and the Clintons were neighbors in New York, and according a source for the New York Post, "Wherever he went, she went. If he went to the Palm, she went to the Palm. If he went out to the Hamptons, she went to the Hamptons."

For the record, the affair with McMahon was not confirmed. A spokesperson for Hillary wryly responded to the accusations with two words: "Another book?" 

They were close friends with the Trumps

Before Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the intensely polarizing 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Clintons and the Trumps were reportedly close friends. Their daughters, Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, practically grew up together. The story of this friendship gets even more bizarre when you consider the fact that Bill reportedly encouraged Trump to run. According to The Washington Post, multiple sources say "Clinton encouraged Trump's efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape." That conversation allegedly occurred "just weeks before Trump jumped into the GOP race and surged to the front of the crowded Republican field." 

In the blink of an eye, Donald Trump became a wall between the Clintons and the White House, even nicknaming Bill's wife "Crooked Hillary." Let's just say, these families are probably not so close anymore, but the Clintons did demonstrate how thick their hides have grown by attending Trump's inauguration, even as their plans for another co-presidency went up in flames.

Hillary Clinton is still battling Monica Lewinsky

Two decades after her affair with Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky wrote a powerful essay for Vanity Fair contextualizing the scandal through the lens of the burgeoning #MeToo and Time's Up movements. The former White House intern openly admits and regrets her role, but she now understands that what transpired between her and the president constituted a "gross abuse of power." In her words: "He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better."

The new spotlight on Bill's extramarital affair and numerous sexual misconduct allegations prompted many to rethink their positions on the former president, including Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who suggested (per Politico) "that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency during the Monica Lewinsky scandal." Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, doubled down on her defense of her husband. "Absolutely not," she answered when Sunday Morning correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked if her husband should have resigned. She added that it wasn't an abuse of power and said Lewinsky "was an adult," then immediately pivoted to focus on allegations against Trump. 

Hillary's answer didn't sit well. Vanity Fair claimed the former Secretary of State "still hasn't learned the lessons of #MeToo," and Vox said her comments were "another example of the way powerful people too often protect their own, rather than survivors."