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Jerry Brown Apologizes to Bill Clinton for Monica Lewinsky Jab

Jerry Brown at a campaign stop in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) Rich Pedroncelli

California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown apologized to former President Bill Clinton on Monday after questioning Mr. Clinton's character and mocking him with a Monica Lewinsky comment while defending his record on the campaign trail.

Brown made the remark while responding to an attack ad issued by his Republican opponent Meg Whitman, which featured a 1992 clip of Mr. Clinton - then Brown's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination - bashing the California governor's tax record.

"I mean Clinton's a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth? You remember, right? There's that whole story there about did he or didn't he," Brown said at an event in Los Angeles on Sunday, in reference to the clip. "I did not have taxes with this state," he joked, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At the Monday press conference, Brown apologized to Mr. Clinton - and quickly redirected the conversation to Whitman's campaign tactics.

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"Bill Clinton was an excellent president. It was wrong for me to joke about an incident from many years ago, and I'm sorry," he said, according to Politico. "The big issue here is that Meg Whitman is running an ad featuring President Clinton that she knows to be false." 

The disputed ad features Mr. Clinton citing a CNN report on Brown's tax record that has since been shown to be innacurate

In the 1992 clip, Clinton says: "CNN -- not me, CNN -- says his assertion about his tax record was, quote, just plain wrong... He raised taxes as governor of California.... He doesn't tell the people the truth."

But Brooks Jackson, who reported the CNN story that Mr. Clinton cites in the ad, wrote on on Saturday that his original report had indeed been inaccurate. "I was wrong when I said that 'state taxes were still higher' during his last year than when he began. In fact, they were a bit lower," he wrote, explaining that he accidentally used figures from the wrong year in his calculations. 

Brown has been vigilant in his criticism of Whitman for refusing to take down the ad despite the report's inaccuracy. "As a billionaire, she thinks she can make things up and lie in a political campaign," Brown said, according to the LA Times. "You know, I've made my mistakes, and the inappropriate joke about President Clinton is one of them. But from me you'll always get it straight. I'll tell you the truth."

Brown, who according to the Boston Herald said he apologized to Mr. Clinton via to a "key guy" in his office, has a long history of political animosity with the former president. In the 1992 presidential campaign, the Democratic rivals traded frequent personal attacks wherein Brown called Mr. Clinton the "prince of sleaze," and Mr. Clinton mocked Brown's own wealthy upbringing, according to the LA Times. After Brown lost the 1992 nomination, he declined to endorse Mr. Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, and has said that in 1996 he voted for Ralph Nader. 

Last year, Mr. Clinton endorsed Brown's opponent Gavin Newsom for California's gubernatorial Democratic nomination - but he later dropped out of the race and is now running for lieutenant governor.

Nevertheless, Brown - who is currently in a dead heat with Whitman in the polls - has indicated that he is open to assistance from the former president in the upcoming election.

"They [the Clinton team] want to be helpful, and there's a conversation going about exactly what he'll be able to do and when," Brown said on Monday, according to the Boston Herald. "I expect that he's going to be helpful and do what he's done all over the country, and that's do everything possible to get Democrats elected."

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