For her silence she would spend 18 months in jail for contempt of court...plus three-and-a-half months for fraud.
And she tells CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart, "It was not an easy time. It was not an easy time."
But now she's telling her story in "The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk."
You could call it "McDougal's Revenge," says Stewart. It's more than her life story, he says. It's a bitter indictment of White House Independent counsel Ken Starr, who led the battle to get her to speak.
The pictures of her arrest, in handcuffs and leg chains, made her a public, and pitiable figure, Stewart remarks.
And McDougal tells him the shackling was very tough to take. "I was not prepared for that. I couldn't swallow. I remember the tears came to my eyes and I kept saying, 'Don't you dare cry. This was a choice you made.' "
But she says she really didn't have a choice. She claims Starr's team was not interested in hearing the truth; they wanted her to accuse Bill and Hillary Clinton of fraud.
"I believe they thought they had the goods, enough to get him," she says. "Not the truth, but the goods. And I believe they went after him with untruthful witnesses, with perjured testimony, and I think they had their story."
Jail time for Mcdougal was hard time, some of it spent in America's toughest women's prisons, like one in California where she was kept in isolation, Stewart reports.
"They called it the 'Hannibal Lecter' cell," McDougal says. "Absolutely soundproof. You could see out. You could see in. Totally glass."
But still she wouldn't talk. "Nothing. I didn't tell them anything."
She was finally released in 1998. She says she never heard from Bill Clinton until the end of his presidency, when he pardoned her.
"What would you say to him?" Stewart asked.
"Thank you for my pardon. God bless you."
"Oh, the only animosity I hold is for the people who tortured us."
There's been no comment from Ken Starr on McDougal's story, Stewart adds.
As for McDougal, he says, she's back in Arkansas trying to pick up the pieces of her life.