Activist Monica Lewinsky told “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah last week that she’s revisiting her infamous relationship with former President Bill Clinton because life left her few other options. The California native, who was 21 and single when she engaged in sex acts with the married 48-year-old world leader, also doesn’t understand how for decades, she bore the brunt of an episode in which she was hardly the best-known person involved.
“Had my life unfolded differently and had there been a different path that allowed me to get back on a more normal developmental path or to get a job and move forward in life, I’m not 100% sure I’d be an anti-bullying advocate at the moment,” Lewinsky said.
Even after finishing graduate school, the former White House intern said she was unsuccessful in putting her “mistake” in the past. As time went by and the internet came of age, Lewinsky said she saw other people being targeted for humiliation like she was following the 1998 White House scandal. She said that when someone is humiliated on a grand stage, as she was, “your narrative runs away from you — your identity is stolen.”
Reclaiming that narrative was neither easy nor quick. Her path to 2022 included “a lot of therapy” and a perspective developed in stages.
Lewinsky called it “insane” that her critics assumed she maybe bore more responsibility than the two-term Democratic leader with whom she was involved.
”The consequences were way worse for me than they were for the most powerful man in the world and some of the other people in the scandal — all 20 years older than me,” she said.
Clinton was impeached in 1999 for obstructing investigators when questioned about Lewinsky.
Lewinsky credited a younger generation for taking another look at her predicament, though she doesn’t completely buy into the popular term “cancel culture,” which is often used to describe people who have been removed from the public conversation as a result of a scandal.
“For me, it’s become a little too broad,” Lewinsky said.
She and Noah agreed that in some cases, opportunists exploit that concept to avoid being held responsible for their actions.
Her new documentary, “15 minutes of Shame,” now streaming on HBO Max, examines the lives of people who’ve been publicly ridiculed and the toll it takes.
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