Monica Lewinsky: The real life of the former White House intern in ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’

Former White House intern and employee is an activist, speaker, and writer

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Wednesday 10 November 2021 20:51
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Impeachment: American Crime Story trailer released

Monica Lewinsky is portrayed by Beanie Feldstein in Impeachment: American Crime Story.

The FX series which is showing on BBC Two is a dramatisation of Bill Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, and how it led to his impeachment in the late 1990s.

Lewinsky was in her twenties at the time the affair became public. She was thrust into the spotlight, an experience she later described as “humiliation in the most intimate possible way”.

Raised in Beverly Hills, California, Lewinsky was 22 years old when she began an internship at the White House in 1995. In November of that year, Clinton began an affair with her. He was 49.

Lewinsky moved to a position at the Pentagon in April 1996. There, she met and befriended Linda Tripp, a civil servant who went on to secretly record her phone conversations with Lewinsky.

Tripp eventually delivered hours of tapes to Independent Counsel Ken Starr, whose investigation and report led to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

Monica Lewinsky (center) is escorted by police officers, federal Investigators, and her attorney William Ginsburg as she leaves the Federal Building on 28 May 1998 in Westwood, California, after submitting new evidence to Ken Starr’s office

A photograph showing former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton at a White House function submitted as evidence in documents by the Starr investigation and released by the House Judiciary committee on 21 September 1998

Following the scandal, Lewinsky developed a line of handbags, became a spokesperson for the diet company Jenny Craig Inc, and hosted the short-lived reality TV show Mr Personality in 2003.

She eventually left the US to study social psychology at the London School of Economics, graduating with a Master’s of Science degree in December 2006.

Lewinsky remained out of the public eye for years, breaking her silence in Vanity Fair in 2014. In a personal essay, she reflected on the ways in which the narratives surrounding Clinton’s affair turned her into a stereotype, writing: “Each easy click of that YouTube link reinforces the archetype, despite my efforts to parry it away: Me, America’s BJ Queen. That Intern. That Vixen. Or, in the inescapable phrase of our 42nd president, ‘That Woman.’

“It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually a person.”

The essay also included insight into how, 20 years after the scandal, Lewinsky struggled to find employment due to Clinton’s affair with her. Lewinsky recounted being told during a job interview close to the 2008 primary season: “You’re clearly a bright young woman and affable, but for us – and probably any other organization that relies on grants and other government funding – it’s risky. We would first need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons. After all, there is a 25 per cent chance that Mrs Clinton will be the next president.”

Monica Lewinsky attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on 9 February 2020 in Beverly Hills, California

A few months later, Lewinsky, spoke out as an anti-bullying advocate, telling a Forbes summit: “Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”

She has continued her efforts to end cyberbullying, working as a speaker and as a writer. Lewinsky is also a producer on this season of American Crime Story.

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