Washington – Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky says she has been reexamining her affair with president Bill Clinton through the “new lens” of the #MeToo movement and has concluded it constituted a “gross abuse of power”.
Lewinsky, 44, in an essay published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine, also recounted a recent chance meeting with Ken Starr, the special prosecutor whose investigation led to the revelation of her sexual relationship with Clinton and his subsequent impeachment nearly 20 years ago.
Lewinsky said she was diagnosed several years ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, “mainly from the ordeal of having been publicly outed and ostracised”.
She said she has drawn strength, however, from the #MeToo movement which has revealed sexual abuse by powerful men in show business, politics and the media.
Lewinsky said she had received a message recently from “one of the brave women leading the #MeToo movement” saying “I’m so sorry you were so alone”.
“Those seven words undid me,” Lewinsky wrote. “They landed in a way that cracked me open and brought me to tears.”
“That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree,” she said. “But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying.”
Lewinsky said there are “many more women and men whose voices and stories need to be heard before mine.
“There are even some people who feel my White House experiences don’t have a place in this movement, as what transpired between Bill Clinton and myself was not sexual assault, although we now recognise that it constituted a gross abuse of power,” she said.
‘Very, very complicated’
Lewinsky recalled how she had emphasised in another essay for Vanity Fair four years ago that the affair with Clinton was a “consensual relationship.”
She credited the #MeToo movement and the “new lens it has provided” for the change in her thinking.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she said. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.
“He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet,” Lewinsky wrote. “He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better.
“I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent,” she said. “Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”
“But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated”, she said, acknowledging that she had been looking for “intimacy” and was not seeking now to make excuses for “my responsibility for what happened”.
As for her meeting with former special prosecutor, their first face-to-face ever, Lewinsky said it occurred in December 2017 at a New York restaurant.
She said Starr asked her several times if she was “doing OK?” and “kept touching my arm and elbow, which made me uncomfortable.”
“I felt determined, then and there, to remind him that, 20 years before, he and his team of prosecutors hadn’t hounded and terrorized just me but also my family,” she said.
Looking for an apology, Lewinsky said she told Starr that while she wished she had made “different choices” she would have liked his office to have done the same.
Starr gave an “inscrutable smile”, Lewinsky said, and replied “I know. It was unfortunate.”