Monica Lewinsky has broken a decade of virtual silence by writing a magazine article in which she addresses her affair with President Clinton – hoping, she says, to put her past behind her once and for all.
“It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” Lewinsky, now 40, writes in the new issue of Vanity Fair.
It is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past – and other people’s futures,” she adds. “I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”
Lewinsky says the affair, which happened when she was a White House intern and led to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, was between two consenting adults. But she regrets what happened between them.
“Sure, my boss took advantage of me,” she writes, “but I will always remain firm on this point: It was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position … The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”
“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton,” she adds. “Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”
Inspired by Tyler Clementi
Lewinsky writes that she was inspired to go public by Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers student who committed suicide in 2010 after being bullied because he was gay. That brought back Lewinsky’s own suicidal feelings from the Clinton scandal.
Lewinsky’s mother was especially upset about Clementi’s death. “She was reliving 1998, when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight,” Lewinsky writes. “She was replaying those weeks when she stayed by my bed, night after night, because I, too, was suicidal. The shame, the scorn, and the fear that had been thrown at her daughter left her afraid that I would take my own life – a fear that I would be literally humiliated to death.”
In light of Clementi’s death, “my own suffering took on a different meaning,” Lewinsky says. “Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation. The question became: How do I find and give a purpose to my past?”
In fact, this may be her new career – given the troubles she says she’s always had getting work, just because of her name. Her current goal, Lewinsky writes, “is to get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.”
Vanity Fair‘s digital edition will be available May 8 and the magazine will be on newsstands May 13.