Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent much of her adult life in the public eye, taking pretty big leaps professionally in her political career (as first lady of the United States, a U.S. senator, secretary of state, and most recently a presidential candidate), so it might come as a surprise to learn that the career politician considers one of her gutsiest decisions to have taken place not on the political stage, but in her personal life. “The gutsiest decision I ever made in my private life was to stay in my marriage,” she said during a global press conference to promote the September 9 release of her Apple TV+ series Gutsy alongside her daughter Chelsea.
ICYMI, in 1998, Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton, then president of the United States, was impeached for lying about a sexual relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Before admitting the affair, Clinton stood by her husband publicly. In a now infamous 60 Minutes interview, Clinton said at the time: “I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like [country singer] Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honour 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.” Once the affair was confirmed, she continued to publicly support him, despite certain politicians and much of the media bringing up the infidelity any chance they could get.
It’s a decision that HRC delves into during the eight-episode season of Gutsy, based off her and Chelsea’s 2019 book The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. Throughout the series, the two women chat with a bevy of diverse “gutsy” women, from Kim Kardashian to Jane Goodall, who Clinton says are not only “determined, courageous, and resilient,” but “that were trying to knock down barriers. In the episode “Gutsy Women Have Rebel Hearts,” Clinton opens up to a local reverend about the “deeply personal” decision she made. “The world was saying, ‘well we know what she should do,’ but you can’t know what goes on in anybody’s marriage, let alone in their hearts and their minds.”
For Clinton, “getting to the decision was excruciating,” and took a lot of personal searching. And ultimately the decision was based on who she — and her husband — were, together and as a couple.
Of course, by nature of just who she is and what her last name is, especially in the pre-social media era of the mid-’90s, — what should have been private became glaringly public; and it’s this very fact that makes her decision all the more bold. “[It was] very difficult to deal with in a way that gave me the confidence to make the decision that was right for me and my family. And I did that and have no regrets.”
For her daughter, Chelsea, the notoriety of their last name affected her personally as well, for pretty much as long as she can remember. “The gutsiest thing I've ever done is to lead my life,” the former first daughter said. “I don't know what it's like to not be under the public gaze and to not have an enormous amount of expectations, for good and ill, for people who want to see me succeed and want to see me flounder or fail or worse. I've had to find a gutsy-ness to live my life in a way that has integrity and meaning and purpose and value to me as a kid, as an adolescent and a teenager, as a young adult, and now as a mom myself.”
Of course, when it comes to making big, scary swing-for-the-fences decisions, Hillary Clinton didn’t just stop with the choice to stay with her husband. Publicly, she ran for president (not once, but twice, first in 2008 and then in 2016). “This was a tightrope with no net,” she says, an already tough experience made even more difficult by the fact that she was a woman, something that raised a lot of questions — and hate — around the idea of a female president. As we know, she didn’t win. But her run impacted young women across the world. “I'm very proud of our campaign and very proud of getting more votes. Very sorry that I didn't actually win the seat, but it was a very gutsy undertaking.”