Monica Lewinsky recalls pain, humiliation after revelation of affair with Bill Clinton
For Bill, it wasn’t even sex — but for Monica, it was love.
Monica Lewinsky, the world’s most famous former intern, told a business conference Monday she was “in love” with Bill Clinton when they had their White House affair in 1995.
“Fresh out of college . . . I fell in love with my boss,” Lewinsky, now 41, said in her first public address in more than a decade — an eye-opening speech about her devastating experience in the public eye.
“Overnight I went from being a completely private figure, to a publicly humiliated one,” she told participants in the Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” summit. “I was patient zero — the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed by the Internet.”
Lewinsky has slowly resumed a media presence this year after more than a decade of silence following her liaison with Clinton, who famously said in 1998: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Seven months later, he conceded they had a relationship that was “not appropriate” but avoided saying they had sex.
Before her appearance Monday, Lewinsky joined Twitter, with a tweet: “#HereWeGo.” By evening she had 36,000 followers.
Prior to the explosion in social media, she said in her speech, Internet news and gossip could still have global impact.
“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then,” she said. “But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites replete with comment sections and emails, which could be forwarded. Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dialup. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly ‘social media.’ ”
She recalled her despair at the way she was portrayed online.
“Staring at the computer screen, I spent the day shouting: ‘Oh my God!’ and ‘I can’t believe they put that in’ or ‘That’s so out of context,’ ” she said. “And those were the only thoughts that interrupted a relentless mantra in my head: ‘I want to die.’ ”
Lewinsky said she wants to use her experience to combat online harassment and bullying.
“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too,” she said. “I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”