WASHINGTON — Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton nearly brought down the then US president, says her boss took advantage of her, but the affair was consensual.
Saying “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress”, she breaks her silence over the affair in the 1990s with an unmistakable reference to her dress stained with presidential semen.
“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton,” says Lewinsky after keeping virtually silent for over ten years on the political scandal that followed.
“So silent, in fact,” she writes in an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, “that the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out?”
“I can assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth,” she says.
Clinton at first denied a sexual relationship with Lewinsky while she worked as an intern at the White House in 1995 and 1996.
But once it became known that she had kept “the blue dress” without getting it dry-cleaned, Clinton admitted to having had an “inappropriate relationship” with her.
In 1998, Republican-led House of Representatives impeached Clinton on the grounds that he had lied about the affair.
But the Republicans failed to oust him as Clinton was subsequently acquitted of all impeachment charges during a trial by the Senate.
Even as she accuses Clinton of taking advantage of her, Lewinsky says the affair was consensual.
“Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship.”
“Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position…”
“The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”
Lewinsky, 40, says it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past” and other people’s futures. “I am determined to have a different ending to my story.”
“I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”
After the scandal, writes Lewinsky, “I turned down offers that would have earned me more than $10 million, because they didn’t feel like the right thing to do.”
Lewinsky also responds to reports made public in February that Hillary Clinton, during the 1990s, had characterised her as a “narcissistic loony toon” in correspondence with close friend Diane Blair.
“My first thought,” Lewinsky writes, “as I was getting up to speed: If that’s the worst thing she said, I should be so lucky.”
Washington Post opinion writer Ruth Marcus suggested that Lewinsky “may not have intended it this way, but she just did Hillary Clinton a big favour”.
The “timing of Lewinsky’s Vanity Fair piece — as the political world awaits Hillary Clinton’s presidential determination, as Chelsea Clinton prepares to have the first child — would seem not exactly fortuitous for the Clintons,” she says.
But in Marcus’s view, Lewinsky’s piece defuses Republican Senator Rand Paul’s line of attack — whether Democrats in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, should consort with a “sexual predator” like Bill Clinton.
“And it does so before any Clinton presidential announcement,” she says. So, “If and when a Clinton presidential announcement comes, Lewinsky will be old news.”