Monica Lewinsky, the woman at the center of the scandal, has emerged in the decades since her affair with Bill Clinton as a powerful anti-bullying advocate and a voice of someone who has been consumed by the scandal machine and managed to emerge out the other side.
In an interview earlier this week tied to the premiere of the show on FX, Lewinsky said something important — and thought-provoking (at least for me).
She was asked by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie about whether Clinton “owed her an apology after all of these years.”
“He should want to apologize in the same way I want to apologize any chance I get to people my actions have hurt,” Lewinsky responded.
Clinton has never flatly apologized to Lewinsky for his behavior to someone who was not only much, much younger but also someone who was in his employ.
In a 2020 Hulu documentary focused on his wife, Bill Clinton offered a rare comment on his relationship with Lewinsky.
“I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky’s life was defined by it, unfairly I think,” the former President said. “Over the years I watched her trying to get a normal life back again. But you gotta decide how to define normal.”
Which, just in case you missed it, isn’t “I’m sorry.”
Now there are those — you know who you are — who will note that the last occupant of the White House was accused of behavior with women far more serious than a consensual affair between Clinton and Lewinsky.
And, yes, the what-about game always works. That’s why it’s so popular.
But Lewinsky’s experience — and her comments to Guthrie — speak to, for me, a larger question: What do we all owe her?
In 1998, when the Starr report, detailing the relationship between a president and an intern, came out, I gleefully read it — never really thinking about the fact that Lewinsky was just a 20-something like me who, overnight, had become famous for all the wrong reasons.
The 40-something me — don’t ask where I land on that spectrum — sees the whole thing differently. I would never want my life — or the lives of my kids — to be defined by the worst decisions we made at 23.
That’s what happened to Lewinsky. And I, for one, am sorry for the teeny part I played in that.
The Point: Lewinsky isn’t demanding an apology after all these years. But that doesn’t mean Bill Clinton doesn’t owe her one.