Monica Samille Lewinsky born July 23, 1973 is an American activist, television personality, fashion designer, and former White House intern.
President Bill Clinton admitted to having had what he called an “inappropriate relationship” with Lewinsky while she worked at the White House in 1995–1996. The affair and its repercussions which included Clinton’s impeachment became known later as the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal.
As a result of the public coverage of the political scandal, Lewinsky gained international celebrity status; she subsequently engaged in a variety of ventures that included designing a line of handbags under her name, being an advertising spokesperson for a diet plan, and working as a television personality.
Lewinsky then decided to leave the public spotlight to pursue a master’s degree in psychology in London. In 2014, she returned to public view as a social activist speaking out against cyberbullying, from which she personally suffered when publicly ridiculed on the Internet regarding the scandal.
Lewinsky was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in an affluent family in Southern California in the Westside Brentwood area of Los Angeles and in Beverly Hills. Her father is Bernard Lewinsky, an oncologist, who is the son of German Jews who escaped from Nazi Germany and moved to El Salvador and then to the United States when he was 14. Her mother, born Marcia Kay Vilensky, is an author who uses the name Marcia Lewis. In 1996, she wrote her only book, the gossip biography, The Private Lives of the Three Tenors. During the Lewinsky scandal, the press compared Lewis’ unproven “hints” that she had an affair with opera star Plácido Domingo to her daughter’s sexual relationship with Clinton. Monica’s maternal grandfather, Samuel M. Vilensky, was a Lithuanian Jew, and Monica’s maternal grandmother, Bronia Poleshuk, was born in the British Concession of Tianjin, China, to a Russian Jewish family. Monica’s parents’ acrimonious separation and divorce during 1987 and 1988 had a significant effect on her. Her father later married his current wife, Barbara; her mother later married R. Peter Straus, a media executive and former director of the Voice of America under President Jimmy Carter.
The family attended Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and Monica attended Sinai Akiba Academy, its religious school. For her primary education she attended the John Thomas Dye School in Bel-Air. She then attended Beverly Hills High School, but for her senior year transferred to, and graduated from, Bel Air Prep (later known as Pacific Hills School) in 1991.
Following high school graduation, Lewinsky attended Santa Monica College, a two-year community college, and worked for the drama department at Beverly Hills High School and at a tie shop. In 1992, she allegedly began a five-year affair with Andy Bleiler, her married former high school drama instructor. In 1993, she enrolled at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1995.
With the assistance of a family connection,who? Lewinsky got an unpaid summer White House internship in the office of White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. Lewinsky moved to Washington, D.C. and took up the position in July 1995. She moved to a paid position in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in December 1995.
Lewinsky stated that between November 1995 and March 1997, she had nine sexual encounters in the Oval Office with then-President Bill Clinton. According to her testimony, these involved fellatio and other sexual acts, but not sexual intercourse.
Clinton had previously been confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct during his time as Governor of Arkansas. Former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones filed a civil lawsuit against him; she alleged that he had sexually harassed her. Lewinsky’s name surfaced during the discovery phase of Jones’ case, when Jones’ lawyers sought to show a pattern of behavior by Clinton that involved inappropriate sexual relationships with other government employees.
In April 1996, Lewinsky’s superiors transferred her from the White House to the Pentagon because they felt she was spending too much time around Clinton. At the Pentagon, she worked as an assistant to chief Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon. Lewinsky told co-worker Linda Tripp about her relationship with the President. Beginning in September 1997, Tripp began secretly recording their telephone conversations regarding the affair with Clinton. In December 1997, Lewinsky left the Pentagon position. In January 1998, after Lewinsky had submitted an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying any physical relationship with Clinton, and had attempted to persuade Tripp to lie under oath in that case, Tripp gave the tapes to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, adding to his ongoing investigation into the Whitewater controversy. Starr then broadened his investigation beyond the Arkansas land use deal to include Lewinsky, Clinton, and others for possible perjury and subornation of perjury in the Jones case. Tripp reported the taped conversations to literary agent Lucianne Goldberg. She also convinced Lewinsky to save the gifts that Clinton had given her during their relationship, and not to dry clean what would later become known as “the blue dress”. Under oath, Clinton denied having had “a sexual affair”, “sexual relations”, or “a sexual relationship” with Lewinsky.
News of the Clinton–Lewinsky relationship broke in January 1998. On January 26, 1998, Clinton stated, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” in a nationally televised White House news conference. The matter instantly occupied the news media, and Lewinsky spent the next weeks hiding from public attention in her mother’s residence at the Watergate complex. News of Lewinsky’s affair with Bleiler also came to light, and he turned over to Starr various souvenirs, photographs, and documents that Lewinsky had sent him and his wife during the time she was in the White House.
Clinton had also said, “there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship” which he defended as truthful on August 17, 1998 because of his use of the present tense, famously arguing “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” (i.e., he was not, at the time he made that statement, still in a sexual relationship with Lewinsky). Under pressure from Starr, who had obtained from Lewinsky a blue dress with Clinton’s semen stain, as well as testimony from Lewinsky that the President had inserted a cigar tube into her vagina, Clinton stated, “I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.” Clinton denied having committed perjury because, according to Clinton, the legal definition of oral sex was not encompassed by “sex” per se. In addition, relying upon the definition of “sexual relations” as proposed by the prosecution and agreed by the defense and by Judge Susan Webber Wright, who was hearing the Paula Jones case, Clinton claimed that because certain acts were performed on him, not by him, he did not engage in sexual relations. Lewinsky’s testimony to the Starr Commission, however, contradicted Clinton’s claim of being totally passive in their encounters.
Clinton and Lewinsky were both called before a grand jury; Clinton testified via closed-circuit television, Lewinsky in person. She was granted transactional immunity by the United States Office of the Independent Counsel, in exchange for her testimony.
In May 2014, Lewinsky wrote an essay for Vanity Fair magazine titled “Shame and Survival”, wherein she discussed her life and the scandal. She continued to maintain that the relationship was mutual and wrote that while Clinton took advantage of her, it was a consensual relationship. She added: “I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.” However, she said it was now time to “stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past.” The magazine later announced her as a Vanity Fair contributor, stating she would “contribute to their website on an ongoing basis, on the lookout for relevant topics of interest”.
In July 2014, Lewinsky was interviewed in a three-part television special for the National Geographic Channel, titled The 90s: The Last Great Decade. The series looked at various events of the 1990s, including the scandal that brought Lewinsky into the national spotlight. This was Lewinsky’s first such interview in more than ten years.
In October 2014, she took a public stand against cyberbullying, calling herself “patient zero” of online harassment. Speaking at a Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” summit about her experiences in the aftermath of the scandal, she said, “Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too.” She said she was influenced by reading about the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman, involving cyberbullying and joined Twitter to facilitate her efforts. In March 2015, Lewinsky continued to speak out publicly against cyberbullying, delivering a TED talk calling for a more compassionate Internet. In June 2015, she became an ambassador and strategic advisor for anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution. The same month, she gave an anti-cyberbullying speech at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In September 2015, Lewinsky was interviewed by Amy Robach on Good Morning America, about Bystander Revolution’s Month of Action campaign for National Bullying Prevention Month. Lewinsky wrote the foreword to an October 2017 book by Sue Scheff and Melissa Schorr, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate.
In October 2017, Lewinsky tweeted the #MeToo hashtag to indicate that she was a victim of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, but did not provide details. She wrote an essay in the March 2018 issue of Vanity Fair in which she did not directly explain why she used the #MeToo hashtag in October, but she did write that although her relationship with Bill Clinton was consensual, because he was 27 years older than she was and in a position with a lot more power than she had, in her opinion now the relationship constituted an “abuse of power” on Clinton’s part. She added that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the experiences involved after the relationship was disclosed. In May 2018, Lewinsky was uninvited from an event hosted by Town & Country when Bill Clinton accepted an invitation to the event.