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How Accurate Is Impeachment: American Crime Story Episode 10?

Episode 10 of "Impeachment" brings the third season of the FX anthology series to an emotional conclusion. The last nine episodes have detailed many different aspects of President Bill Clinton's (Clive Owen) 1998 impeachment scandal, beginning with his illicit affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), then covering Lewinsky's friendship and subsequent betrayal by her friend and confidante Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), and also following Paula Jones' (Annaleigh Ashford) sexual harassment lawsuit against the president.

In episode 10, "The Wilderness," the show finally covers Season 3's titular impeachment. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr (Dan Bakkedahl) finally delivers his long-awaited report to Congress, which does chronicle the president's alleged crimes, but also includes an exhaustive account of Lewinsky and the president's relationship, with all of its notorious details. With impeachment looming, Clinton scrambles to save his presidency, and it falls to First Lady Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco) to whip up the "no" votes from reluctant lawmakers. Meanwhile, Lewinsky tries to take control of her narrative by co-authoring an autobiography telling her side of the story. Linda Tripp struggles with being one of the most loathed people in America. And Paula Jones resorts to desperate measures to pay her bills.

As with every show that dramatizes real events, "Impeachment" is a blend of fact and fiction. Here are the major accuracies and inaccuracies in episode 10.

The Starr Report almost breaks the Internet: accurate

In episode 10, the Starr Report is finally delivered to Congress, then is posted online. Since this was Sept. 1998, the Internet was still relatively young, and existing web servers weren't equipped to handle the massive spike in web traffic. This creates a bottleneck, as everyone from students at Chelsea Clinton's (Anastasia Barkow) college to reporter Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner) to Monica Lewinsky herself has trouble accessing it. 

This is pretty much what happened. The release of the Starr Report was obviously hugely significant politically, but it was also a milestone in the history of the Internet. Overall Internet traffic almost doubled overnight after the report was published, and about 20 million people read the report in two days (via Wired).

All this Internet traffic did make it difficult to access the massive document, like "Impeachment" suggests, and it actually crashed government servers (via Time). At the time, there were actually fears that the report would cause a worldwide Internet crash, which ultimately didn't happen (via The Chicago Tribune).

Linda Tripp's post-Starr Report timeline: inaccurate

Episode 10 follows Linda Tripp in the aftermath of the Starr Report. Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale) tells Tripp that Monica Lewinsky is writing a book with Andrew Morton, the journalist who wrote a biography of Princess Diana. Unfortunately for Tripp, Lewinsky's book has dried up the market for a similar book from her. Worse, Tripp has become a public laughingstock for her role in the scandal. After months of enduring public mockery over her personal appearance, Tripp undergoes extensive plastic surgery. "Impeachment" ends Tripp's story with her interview for George magazine, in which she attempts to position herself as an ordinary person who did the right thing by ending Bill Clinton's abuse.

The big inaccuracy here is the timeline of events, which "Impeachment" rearranged — something it did throughout this season, including last week's episode. According to "Impeachment," Tripp got the plastic surgery just before Monica Lewinsky went on tour with her book. In reality, the surgery happened months later — the book tour began in March 1999 (via CNN), and Tripp underwent surgery in Dec. 1999 (via The New York Post). "Impeachment" also suggests the surgery happened right before her interview for George magazine, with the reporter being surprised by her appearance. In truth, the George magazine interview happened in Dec. 2000 for its Jan. 2001 issue. Tripp had made multiple public appearances with her new face before this interview ever took place (via CNN). 

Paula Jones' money troubles: partly accurate

Episode 10 also follows Paula Jones in the aftermath of the Starr Report, as she attempts to pick up her life after a judge threw out her sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton. Jones has become publicly disgraced and can't get a job. And since she's a parent of two sons and isn't receiving child support from her ex-husband Steve, she's in dire financial straits. First, Paula works for a psychic hotline for cash. Then she agrees to pose nude for Penthouse magazine.

In reality, Paula did give her name to a psychic hotline, the Paula Jones Celebrity Psychic Network — although it's not clear whether she actually took calls, like she did on the show (via Deseret Times). She also did pose for Penthouse, explaining to Larry King in Oct. 2000 that she needed the money to pay legal fees and tax bills (via CNN).

But the one major detail that "Impeachment" omits from the narrative is the fact that Jones actually did receive a settlement from Bill Clinton. After a judge threw out the case in April 1998, Jones appealed. In Jan. 1999, Clinton settled with Jones for $850,000, which was $150,000 more than the original settlement offer. However, the 1999 settlement did not include an apology like Jones wanted.

But even though Jones did receive the six-figure settlement, it didn't cover her legal bills, which at the time exceeded $2.2 million (via The New York Times). That no doubt factored into her decision to pose for Penthouse.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).