“My name is Monica Lewinsky. Though I have often been advised to change it, or asked why on earth I haven’t. But, there we are. I haven’t.”
Monica Lewinsky spoke at the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 Summit and spoke about the affair that almost brought down the Bill Clinton administration. In her 2,500 word speech she blamed her humiliation on the Drudge Report, Internet, Ken Starr, the NY Post’s Page Six, everybody except for the married President with whom she had sexual relations. From the transcript:
But back then, in 1995, we started an affair that lasted, on and off, for 2 years. And, at that time, it was my everything. That, I guess you could say, was the golden bubble part for me; the nice part. The nasty part was that it became public. Public with a vengeance.
Thanks to the Internet and a website that at the time, was scarcely known outside of Washington DC but a website we all know today: the Drudge Report, within 24 hours I became a public figure, not just in the United States but around the entire globe. As far as major news stories were concerned, this was the very first time that the traditional media was usurped by the Internet.
In 1998, as you can imagine, there was a media frenzy. Even though it was pre-Google, (that’s right, pre-Google). The World Wide Web (as we called it that back then) was already a big part of life.
Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was Patient Zero.
She continued to talk about her experience, her embarrassment, and the bad press, urging people to have compassion for people like her who are the focus of scandals, concluding with:
Actually, what we really need is a cultural revolution. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit – an Empathy Crisis, and something tells me that matters a lot more to most of us.
Oscar Wilde wrote: “I have said that behind sorrow there is always sorrow. It were wiser still to say that behind sorrow there is always a soul. And to mock at a soul in pain is a dreadful thing.”
My feelings, exactly.
While it’s easy to have compassion for a person who was misled by a powerful person at the tender age of twenty-four, one would think she would have a better perspective on the scandal she was involved in by age 40. Ms. Lewinsky wasn’t a victim of cyber-bullying; she was a victim of having sexual relations with a person at or near the peak of power. She became news just as Donna Rice, Elizabeth Ray, Fanne Foxe and many others had before her.
Matt Drudge didn’t ruin her life just the same way that the Miami Herald did not ruin Donna Rice’s life. Drudge simply reported a huge news story.
If she wants to place the blame for the personal attacks she received, Ms. Lewinsky would be better served to look toward the “Clinton Machine,” whose history of destroying reputations is well-documented.