Every single one of us has a youthful indiscretion in our past we’d rather not think about. It might be a bad choice, a bad joke or a bad relationship. All of us have at one time or another done something we really wish we hadn’t. Most of us deal with a little embarrassment and then get to move on with our lives. We get to grow and mature and leave those indiscretions in the dustbin of the past.
Monica Lewinsky will never have that privilege. Her “youthful indiscretion” would have been bad enough had it been limited to just a sexual affair with her married boss. Unfortunately, that boss was the President of the United States – a man the media loved and adored and would go to great lengths to defend and protect.
Lewinsky never had the luxury of letting that bad decision by her younger, naive self just sink into the sludge of the past. She will forever be tied to the Clinton legacy, her name synonymous with interns and “unseemly” behavior. Given the level of her fame (infamy), Lewinsky has quite remarkably been able to carve out a life for herself outside of the limelight. That says a lot about her determination. But should she expect to ever be on a public stage without being questioned about her connection to Bill Clinton?
Over the Labor Day weekend, Lewinsky – now an anti-bullying activist – appeared at a Jerusalem news conference to give a speech about her experiences in the wake of the Clinton scandal. After finishing, she sat down to be interviewed by Israeli anchor Yonit Levi who immediately asked her if she expected an apology from Bill Clinton. Lewinsky apologized politely and swiftly exited the stage. Later, she clarified that she had told the interviewer in advance she did not want to be asked about Bill Clinton and they had agreed it wouldn’t happen.
Monica Lewinsky stormed off stage at a Jerusalem speaking event because of an interviewer's "off limits" question about former President Bill Clinton: https://t.co/MPteYOGEh0 pic.twitter.com/nrfPqlEPDr
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 4, 2018
But it does raise the question – is it fair for Monica Lewinsky to expect to not be asked about Bill Clinton when she is appearing in a public forum? After all, were it not for the Bill Clinton mess in the first place she wouldn’t be in the public eye at all…she wouldn’t be earning money as a public speaker against bullying and harassment. It’s a shame that her fate is forever tied to a guy like Slick Willy, but if her paycheck is tied to him as well does she really have the right to refuse to talk about him or the incident?
It’s rare that I don’t have a solid opinion on something, but I must admit that in this case I am torn – both as a woman and an op-ed journalist. A part of me thinks, “Well, this is the table you set for yourself so now it’s where you must dine.” In other words, she’s making a living off of this one experience. It isn’t really fair for her to expect to not be quizzed about it or asked about it. For her, it might be the 1000th she’s been asked the question; for the excited interviewer, it is the first. If you’re going to earn your living this way, you have to accept the baggage that comes with it.
On the other hand, she must be exhausted by it all. It isn’t fair that she’ll be paying for one horrible, youthful mistake for the rest of her life. It isn’t fair that Bill Clinton still gets to be a hero and she still has to face embarrassingly personal and exploitative questions every time she appears in public. It isn’t right that she gets labeled a slut or a victim or an idiot forever and Clinton just gets to be goofy old Grandpa President who won’t stop hitting on the ladies. The same reporters who want Lewinsky to talk about how she feels about the Clintons give Bill Clinton a pass on lechery. They report bemused stories about him, make giggling commentaries about his philandering and generally treat him as a harmless, lovable old rake who just amuses us all.
It’s sick and it is completely unjust.
I don’t begrudge Lewinsky for making a living off of this experience. It’s the least the Clintons could offer her, even if they do so indirectly.
I don’t know if it’s fair for her to expect no one to be curious about it all when they’ve got the one chance to talk to the most famous intern in history.
I don’t know.
Here’s what I do know – Monica Lewinsky has paid for her poor choices and then some. If one day, on one occasion she decides to step off the stage rather than answer the same question she’s been asked over and over and over again for decades about one of the most painful times in her life…well, that’s her right and it’s perfectly understandable even if I don’t completely condone it.
And yes, Bill Clinton owes her an apology and so do the rest of the established, elite media set (many of whom are still working to this day) who style themselves as social justice warriors but decades ago mercilessly dragged a young, naive, scared intern through the mud while the most powerful man in the world made her out to be a slut.
I haven’t seen one yet. I won’t hold my breath. But hey…#Resist…or whatever.