Monica Lewinsky says she no longer needs to hear an apology for Bill Clinton – but she still has some pointed words for him.
Monica Lewinsky says former US president Bill Clinton “should want to apologise” to her for his role in the sex scandal that thrust her into an intensely hostile public spotlight two decades ago – but it’s an apology she no longer needs to hear.
Ms Lewinsky was 24 years old in 1998 when the world learned of her affair with Mr Clinton. Her co-worker Linda Tripp had secretly recorded her confessing to the relationship.
The scandal led to Mr Clinton’s impeachment, though he was acquitted by the US Senate and served the remainder of his term in office.
Ms Lewinsky re-emerged in 2015 for a TED Talk entitled The Price of Shame, in which she spoke candidly about the humiliation she suffered as a result of the scandal.
“It’s time to stop tiptoeing around my past,” she said at the time.
“This scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution. This rush to judgment enabled by technology led to mobs of virtual stone throwers. I was branded a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman’.”
She has spent the past several years campaigning against cyber-bullying.
In that vein, Ms Lewinsky has now served as a co-producer on Impeachment: American Crime Story, a limited TV series documenting and dramatising her own sex scandal.
“If the scandal had happened in today’s culture, I think it would be different. (But) I don’t think it would be as different as people want to think it would be,” Ms Lewinsky told NBC’s morning show Today on Tuesday.
“What it really dovetails to is this sense that we’re living in a culture and a world now where we’re drowning in shame. And so we’re taking a 360-degree look at this public shaming, public humiliation culture, and really trying to understand. How did we get here, where are we going?”
At one point during the interview, host Savannah Guthrie asked Ms Lewinsky whether she would want Mr Clinton to watch the series.
“You know, I don’t even know how to really answer that,” said Ms Lewinsky.
“I mean, do you ever wish that you could speak to him? Do you feel like he owes you an apology after all these years?” Guthrie pressed.
“I think there was a long period, before my life changed in the last six or seven years, where I felt a lot, in terms of there not being this resolution,” she replied.
“I’m very grateful that I don’t have that feeling anymore. I don’t need it. He should want to apologise, in the same way that I want to apologise any chance I get to the people that I’ve hurt, and that my actions have hurt.”
Ms Lewinsky was a White House intern when the affair with Mr Clinton began. She told Guthrie one of the improvements in American culture since then, and one of the positive consequences of modern technology, was that “we’re having conversations about power differentials in different ways”.
“It’s not just people in power who have voices. That’s part of the beauty of social media, is that more people can be heard,” she explained.
Back on the subject of the TV show, Ms Lewinsky said she was “nervous” about viewers seeing “some of the worst moments of my life” and some behaviour she regretted.
One example: a scene in which she flashes her underwear at Mr Clinton. The writers initially cut that scene from script, but she urged them to include it.
“As a subject, I was incredibly grateful that it was missing. But I realised as a producer that, particularly as I was involved, that the credibility of the show would have been significantly affected. And I didn’t think that was fair to anyone else,” she said.
“But more than that, I shouldn’t get a pass. And that is hard. You know, more therapy now. But I think that was important.
“Truth and context were really missing in 1998 and throughout the process, and humanity, and I hope those are all things that we brought to the show.”
She told Guthrie it was “really meaningful” for her to have “a seat at the table” as a producer on the show.
“I’ve been really lucky these last six or seven years to really reclaim my narrative,” said Ms Lewinsky.
“It is a dramatisation. But there is an enormous amount of emotional truth. And I think that is what was really important.
“A lot of people know about this story, but people are going to be very surprised when they watch it, at things they didn’t know happened. Even I learned things.
“I think the process was, I felt heard. But being heard and listened to doesn’t mean you always get your own way. And it was challenging at times to wear two different hats as a subject and producer.”
To finish the interview, she had a poignant message for others who have been “shamed” publicly.
“There were a lot of moments where, umm, I wasn’t sure I would make it through,” Ms Lewinsky said.
“And I have an incredible family, and a lot of friends, and a lot of helpers. so I think the takeaway, for anybody who’s watching this and is struggling or feeling they’ve been shamed, is you can get through it. I think that really is the most important thing.”
Originally published as Monica Lewinsky says Bill Clinton ‘should want to apologise’ but she doesn’t ‘need’ him to