Monica Lewinsky´s story: 'patient zero' of online bullying
It's been more than two decades since the Clinton scandal turned her life upside down. How has Monica Lewinsky been, and what has she been doing since the notorious impeachment trial of 1998?
She was on the receiving end of many tacky jokes, ridiculed by late-night comedy hosts, ripped apart by the mainstream media, and a household name....for all the wrong reasons. In the late 1990s, everyone knew who Monica Lewinsky was, and all because of her affair with President Bill Clinton.
Pictured: Lewinsky with President Clinton during her time at the White House in 1997.
(Photo: Clinton Presidential Library, Public Domain)
In 2018, Monica Lewinsky wrote an essay for Vanity Fair about the affair, describing it concisely: "He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career while I was in my first job out of college."
Photo: Time Magazine
It is well documented that when the news of Clinton's affair with Lewinsky got out, President Clinton was quick to deny it both publicly and privately.
Everyone remembers his infamous declaration of innocence at a January 1998 conference, in which Clinton declared, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
In Hulu's documentary 'Hillary,' Hillary Clinton talks about how Clinton told her it was all just a mix-up following the first news reports. ""He said 'there's nothing to it, it's not true, I may have been too nice to her and may have paid her too much attention."
President Bill Clinton then spoke with Monica Lewinsky in private and, according to Lewinsky, advised her to sign an affidavit stating that she had never had sexual relations with him. Clinton would also deny the affair during a deposition for an unrelated legal suit that same month.
(Photo: By Helene C. Stikkel - Originally from US DOD, Public Domain)
We all know the story - Bill Clinton's lies soon caught up with him. In February 1998, headlines were made when Lewinsky's secretly recorded confession to co-worker Linda Tripp came to light. Bill Clinton could no longer deny he had an affair with his then 22-year-old intern.
Photo: The Arizona Republic
Soon the general public became privy to all the intimate details of Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton's affair. From the cigar to the stained blue dress, it was all out there.
In a 2015 TED Talk, Lewinsky spoke about the experience: "Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide. I was patient zero of losing a reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously."
In a drama series, for which she was an main adviser, Monica Lewinsky was finally given the chance to share her side of the story. 'Impeachment: American Crime Story' by FX was released on September 7th, 2021.
Executive producer and writer Sarah Burgess told Entertainment Weekly, "It feels like in 1998, our culture created a second Monica Lewinsky that doesn't bear any relationship to the real person."
Fortunately, Lewinsky collaborated with the creators of the show so that we can finally hear her side of the story. Executive producer Ryan Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter, "Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do. if you want to produce it with me, I would love that; but you should be the producer and you should make all the money."
So apart from being the main consultant for 'Impeachment: American Crime Story,' how is the "real" Monica Lewinsky doing these days? How did she handle the repercussions following the scandal?
In 1999 President Clinton was acquitted of obstruction of justice and perjury following his impeachment trial. As a result, Clinton saved his marriage to Hillary and his job as president despite the scandal.
However, Lewinsky had had her name dragged through the mud, and there was no clear road map of what a 20-something should do after becoming the butt of every joke in the whole nation.
Pictured: Halloween masks of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were top sellers.
Monica was asked to do a photo shoot for Vanity Fair in 1998. Photographed by Herb Ritts rather tastefully, Lewinsky's appearance in the magazine did nothing to improve her image. A writer from The New York Times, Maureen Dowd, even went so far as to compare the photographs from the shoot to those that could be found in an "adult" magazine, calling attention to the young woman's "snug gingham skirt" and "bare shoulders." Everyone was quick to forgive Mr. President, but certainly not "the other woman."
Despite all the negativity, Monica Lewinsky tried to make lemonade out of lemons. In 1999 she had a book released 'Monica's Story,' her own handbag line, and even scored a gig as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, the weight loss company.
Lewinsky needed to do whatever she could to make money. Monica told the New York Times in an interview that by the year 2000, she was 1.5 million dollars in debt due to legal fees from the scandal. So she did what anyone would do, attempted to profit off of her fame.
In a search for more anonymity, Lewinsky moved to New York City from Washington in early 2000. However, Monica soon found that even in the Big Apple, she received more negative attention than she wished, the New York Post even gave her the cruel nickname of "the Portly Pepperpot."
Despite everything, Monica went on to host a dating show in 2003 called 'Mr. Personality' and made several television appearances. She also landed a job as a correspondent for Channel 5 in the UK, reporting on American trends and culture on a programme called 'Monica's Postcards.'
(Photo: screenshot from Mr. Personality)
However, in 2005 she decided to escape her life in the United States and the spotlight and moved to London, where she studied social psychology at the London School of Economics. Interestingly, Lewinsky's thesis for her Masters degree was titled "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third-Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity."
Following her graduation in 2006, Monica Lewinsky did her best to stay away from the public eye until 2014. Lewinsky returned to life in public with an essay she wrote about her experience with the scandal in Vanity Fair. The magazine was so impressed with her work that they decided to keep her on as a contributor.
Lewinsky also created a public Twitter account in 2014 where she began to express her views on politics and her status as an "anti-bullying activist."
It certainly isn't surprising that she used her voice to speak out against cyber-bullying, giving Ted Talks and interviews on the subject with all she has gone through. Here we see Lewinsky giving a Ted Talk in 2015.
(Photo: jurvetson / flickr)
In an interview with CNN, Monica called herself "patient zero" regarding cyberbullying. Lewinsky has made it her mission to help those suffering what she went through and try to stop it from happening in the first place.
Lewinsky has spent most of her time over the last several years giving speeches on the damage that bullying causes and contributing to the anti-bullying resource Bystander Revolution, founded by MacKenzie Scott (formerly Bezos).
(Photo: ABC News)
Fortunately, one would like to think that since the 1990s, the public has evolved and now sees the cruelty with which it treated Lewinsky. Monica appeared on 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' in 2019 for an episode on 'Public Shaming.'
John Oliver spoke openly about the unfair treatment that Lewinsky received. Oliver even called out other comedians such as Jay Leno for the offensive and disgusting jokes that were made about Monica.
(Photo: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, YouTube still)
Not only has she collaborated with the FX series, which tells her story, but she is even making her OWN documentary. Monica Lewinsky is joined forces with the host of MTV's 'Catfish' Max Joseph to create an HBO Max documentary, titled '15 Minutes of Shame.'
The documentary was released on October 7th, 2021 on HBO. It is only fair that Monica has a chance to tell her true story, especially when the Clinton scandal has defined her whole life.