Monica Lewinsky has a story to tell. But now might not be the time to do it. She is now 40 years old and it has been 17 years since her affair with Bill Clinton, who at that time was President of the United States.
Most people who were at least a teenager during the time of the scandal remember it well. Lewinsky was a White House intern who dropped some not-so-subtle sexual flirtations the President Clinton’s way. He was already rumored to be a womanizer and he did nothing to squelch those rumors by having his little tryst with Ms. Lewinsky. His behavior led to his impeachment and served to erode the trust of Americans in the country’s leadership.
However, that affair and the ensuing scandal are over. Clinton is no longer in office and the scandal, other than as fodder for on-going jokes about cigars and blue dresses, has become old news. Thus Monica Lewinsky has been out of the limelight for some time. It appears that she misses being a household name given that, according to recent reports in the media, Lewinsky is publishing an article about the scandal in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair magazine.
Lewinsky’s article is all about the sordid events that occurred between her and Clinton from her side of the scandal. According to some news accounts, the article will recall the humiliation she suffered during that time. It will also accuse the Clinton administration of making her the fall guy in the whole situation. It could be very uncomfortable for Hillary Clinton, who is said to be gearing up for a 2016 Presidential run.
Lewinsky writes in the article that she was “branded” by special prosecutor Ken Starr, politicians from both parties, and the media. She says the attempt to label her was successful because of the power players behind the effort.
One thing that Lewinsky will not do is dodge responsibility. She writes in the article that the whole liaison between her and Bill Clinton was consensual. She does say that he took advantage of her in his position as her employer, but says she will always be firm in maintaining that the affair was by mutual agreement. The problem, according to Lewinsky, was not in the actual affair but in the aftermath in which she felt she was being used as a scapegoat to protect the President’s reputation. She says she feels nothing but regret for what happened between her and Clinton during that time.
Why was Lewinsky silent all these years? Many in the world of gossip have claimed that she was paid off by others to keep quiet but Lewinsky says that is a lie. She claims her reason for coming forward now is an effort to help victims of online harassment and humiliation. She says she wants to speak out on this issue in public forums.
The reputation that Lewinsky gained as a result of her affair with Clinton has hurt her efforts to get ahead in the employment world. Too many times, she has either been turned down because of her reputation or was strung along for a period of time from some companies who wanted to gain attention from the media.
Lewinsky also admits to entertaining suicidal thoughts during the peak of the scandal but never actually attempted anything. She says she finally stepped forward to talk about those infamous events that were brought to light during Clinton’s second term because of the fate of a young man named Tyler Clementi. Clementi, 18, committed suicide recently after a video of him kissing another male was made public online.
One can appreciate the efforts to help others. One can appreciate the idea of using a horrible event that forever altered their life to enrich the lives of others. Nobody should have a problem with that. But that is not the only issue at stake here. What may be the most compelling motivation for the impending article is Lewinsky’s desire to get back into the spotlight. If this is indeed the reason why Lewinsky has written her article there are other, perhaps better ways she could have accomplished this.
For example, consider Donna Rice. Rice was involved in an affair in 1988 with Gary Hart, a front-runner for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination. When news of the affair broke, it knocked Hart out of his winning position and eventually out of the race.
Where is Rice now? She is now a 52-year-old stepmother, wife, and advocate for internet safety. After the scandal, Rice says she returned to her faith and basically stayed away from any media spotlight for about seven years. She met and married Jack Hughes and began her new life. Eventually, she gained a leadership position for a non-profit organization called “Enough Is Enough.” This organization has the mission of fighting against pornography and exposing such to children in both print and broadcast media.
Donna Rice Hughes could have stepped forward and been the subject of every trashy talk show in the United States. She could have written her own little “tell-all.” But that was not the path she chose to take. She has the credibility to speak out against sexual exploitation because she herself once took part in it (at one time, she even turned down a chance to pose for Playboy magazine). When she began appearing in the media again, she was recognized as the object of Hart’s affections but at that point, she had credibility.
Lewinsky does not have credibility. She has not stepped up to the plate for anything. One could argue that she is trying to do that now but there are problems with that argument. To begin with, she is not a victim of online harassment although no one can deny that there is reason to feel sorry for Lewinsky. She will forever be labeled for the events that happened all those years ago. However, by her own admission that the relationship with Clinton was consensual, she is not a victim. She willingly entered into an affair with a man she knew was married. She engaged in immoral activity and knew that there was not a chance of it ever turning into a “happily ever after” situation.
Yes, much the same can be said for Donna Rice Hughes but Hughes chose a different path. She chose to put the scandal behind her and get on with her life and by doing so she re-define herself. Hughes chose to let others know that her behavior in the past was just that, part of her past. It was not her present. It would not be her future. Because of that, people are listening to her.
Lewinsky’s stepping up at this time has all the earmarks of a “Hey, do not forget me” attitude. Her motives may be pure but her efforts do not show that. Stepping up to write an article (that she probably got paid a pretty penny for) just shows a longing for the limelight. Hughes never stepped forward to talk about her past in that way. She stepped forward to talk about other important issues and people recognized that she was not capitalizing on her ill-gotten fame but on her credibility as a spokesperson.
Monica, meet Donna. More than likely, one can learn from the other and it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall and overhear an exchange between the two. However, while Lewinsky has a story to tell, her timing and her stated motivation for doing so ring false.
Opinion by Rick Hope