Former President Bill Clinton made a stop at Bass Concert Hall this Sunday to discuss "The President is Missing," his new thriller novel co-written with James Patterson.
The thriller novel, which is about cyber terrorism threats and the disappearance of a U.S. president, is the first fiction collaboration between a U.S. president and a novelist.
“I wanted people to read this regardless of their politics and say, ‘You know, America only works if people work together, and (cyberterrorism) is one thing we neglect,’” Clinton said.
Clinton said he wanted the novel to be an entertaining way to introduce people to the threat of cyberterrorism while keeping the novel authentic to the experience of being president.
“I wanted to see if (Patterson and I) could write an authentic book,” Clinton said. “That is one that’s factually accurate about how the White House works, what it’s physically like and deal with something that if I just put a book out about it, it wouldn’t sell as many copies.”
Focus on Clinton’s book has been dominated, however, by controversy surrounding Monica Lewinsky and the #MeToo movement.
Comments made by the former president on NBC’s “Today” show on June 4 have brought controversy to the book tour. During the interview, Clinton responded to Monica Lewinsky’s op-ed in Vanity Fair which put her relationship with Clinton in the context of the #MeToo movement.
Clinton said although he considers the #MeToo movement “way overdue,” he would have responded the same way and not resigned from office if the scandal had happened in 2018. Later, in another book tour interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Clinton said after reviewing the “Today” show interview, even he was mad at himself.
“It wasn’t my finest hour, but the important thing is that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago, and I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, and to the American people,” Clinton said on the Late Show. “I meant it then, I meant it now. … I still believe this #MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and should be supported.”
While Clinton was greeted by hundreds of attendees at Sunday’s event, around 35 protesters carried signs outside Bass Concert Hall calling Clinton a rapist and yelled at attendees walking in. The group was composed of people protesting various scandals in Clinton’s political career. The crowd included Infowars representatives, UT students and the former chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, Robert Morrow.
Ethan Berman and Emily Shrode were two UT students in the crowd. Berman said he feels sexual misconduct accusations against the former president have been long ignored.
“We’re both film majors,” radio-television-film senior Berman said, referring to himself and Shrode. “It’s relevant to us (because) even in local and independent Austin (filmmaking), this is happening. It’s a thing you want to get better, and Bill Clinton is a legacy thing. All of our friends who are liberal say, ‘Oh no, he’s different,’ and we’re like, ‘No, he’s part of the problem.’”
Inside, several protesters yelled during the interview, with accusations similar to those in the protest outside.
Despite the protests, Clinton kept his focus on the novel and did not discuss the #MeToo movement or Monica Lewinsky during his visit on campus.
“You know, one of the things I know about this whole crowd is one of their favorite things is to attack you over something that happened so long ago,” Clinton said, addressing the protesters inside the auditorium. “Nobody knows whether it’s true or not. Just remember, folks, just because somebody is serving poison, doesn’t mean you have to drink it.”
Recent UT graduate Navin Pillai attended the talk and said while he sees instances where he thinks the president had done wrong, his overall opinion of him is still positive.
“I know as a president there have been mixed views about him, especially nowadays with the #MeToo movement,” Pillai said. “But I think … for the most part, he was a pretty good president. Personal scandals kind of ruined his legacy a little bit.”