After a decade of silence over the affair with Bill Clinton that led to his eventual impeachment in 1998, Monica Lewinsky has finally decided to address the dramatic turn of events in a tell-all magazine column for Vanity Fair.
Now 40, Lewinsky said “it’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress” and vowed to stop “tiptoeing” around her past.
“I am determined to have a different ending to my story,” she writes. “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.)”
Lewinski stated that the affair with the former US President, which happened when she was a 22-year-old White House intern, occurred between two consenting adults. However, she admitted she “deeply” regretted the relationship.
“Sure, my boss took advantage of me,” she continued, “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."
The Lewinsky Scandal In Pictures
The Lewinsky Scandal In Pictures
1/11 Greeting guests: Monica Lewinsky in 1997.
2/11 Lewinsky attends a White House function with Clinton in 1997.
3/11 The now infamous blue dress, among other gifts given to Lewinsky by Clinton that would be used as evidence in his impeachment trial.
4/11 Lewinsky leaves court on 20 August, 1998, after testifying before a grand jury investigating Clinton.
5/11 A handwritten note to Clinton by Lewinsky that would be later counted on as evidence in his 21-day Senate trial.
6/11 Marcia Lewis, the mother of Monica Lewinsky, prepares to meet reporters on February 10, 1998, outside of the US District Courthouse in Washington.
7/11 Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, addresses the press outside the courtroom on March 5, 1998.
8/11 Lewinsky is escorted by police officers, federal investigators and her attorney, William Ginsburg, as she leaves the Federal Building May 28, 1998.
9/11 The impeachment hearing in progress in November 1998.
10/11 Clinton apologises to the nation for lying to them over his affair with Monica Lewinsky in December 1998
11/11 Monica Lewinsky escorted to her hotel in New York, ahead of her video taped deposition to Republican prosecutors.
“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton,” she added. “Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”
Lewinski went on to name Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers student who was bullied to death for being gay, as the inspiration behind her decision to speak out after so many years, citing her own feelings of suicide after news of Clinton’s infidelity hit the media.
Her mother, she says, was particularly harrowed by Clementi’s death.
“She was reliving 1998, when she wouldn't let me out of her sight.
“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.”
But, in the wake of Clementi’s death, her “own suffering took on a different meaning,” she said.
“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?”
Her main ambition for the future, she concluded, is to use her famous name to “get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums."
Clinton was being investigated by Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel, on a number of perjury and obstruction of justice cases – all of which he was later acquitted of – when Starr was given taped conversations between the former President and Lewinsky by her Defense Department co-worker Linda Tripp, who had been secretly recording them.
It led to a 21-day Senate trial, during which Clinton’s carefully worded argument hinged on the meaning of the word ‘is’ when determining the truthfulness of the statement: “There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship.”
It was the now infamous blue dress, gifted to Lewinsky by Clinton, that provided the DNA evidence proving the relationship had existed, despite Clinton’s initial denials that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”.
“I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never,” he stated at the time. “These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.”
On 17 August 1998, Clinton admitted that he had in fact engaged in an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky.
That evening, he gave a nationally broadcast statement admitting to the relationship, which he deemed “not appropriate”.
He was subsequently impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
His wife, Hillary Clinton, went on to become the 67th United States Secretary of State, serving alongside President Obama from 2009 to 2013.
The full column will appear in the June issue of Vanity Fair, available digitally on 8 May and in print format from 13 May.