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Monica Lewinsky
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Monica Lewinsky

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Monica Lewinsky is a former White House intern best known for her affair with President Bill Clinton.

Who Is Monica Lewinsky?

After graduating from college, Monica Lewinsky took an internship and then a job at the White House. From mid-1995 to 1997, Lewinsky was involved in a sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton. Her taped conversations with the president, and subsequent testimony, led to a media frenzy and a political firestorm.

Early Life

Monica Samille Lewinsky was born in San Francisco, California, on July 23, 1973. She was raised in the affluent neighborhoods of Brentwood and Beverly Hills, in Southern California. Her father, Bernard Lewinsky, is an oncologist, and her mother, Marcia Kaye Vilensky, is an author who publishes under the name Marcia Lewis. The Lewinskys divorced in 1988.

Lewinsky was raised Jewish and attended Sinai Akiba Academy and the John Thomas Dye School in her younger years. She graduated from Bel Air Prep (now Pacific Hills School) in 1991 and attended Santa Monica College while working for the drama department at Beverly Hills High School. She also began an affair with Andy Bleiler, her married high school drama instructor, around this time. Lewinsky enrolled at Lewis & Clark College after completing her two-year degree. She graduated with a degree in psychology in 1995.

White House Career and Relationship With Bill Clinton

Through a family friend, Lewinsky secured an internship in the White House office of Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. After her internship ended, she accepted a paid position in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

According to her later testimony, Lewinsky was involved in a sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton between the winter of 1995 and March 1997. The relationship involved nine encounters, some in the Oval Office. Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon in 1997. She confided in an older coworker, Linda Tripp, about her relationship with President Clinton. Shortly thereafter, Tripp began secretly recording Lewinsky's conversations with her about the president.

Clinton was already burdened with a history of sexual misconduct allegations, and in 1997, lawyers working on the civil lawsuit filed by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones heard rumors of Lewinsky's relationship with the president. Lewinsky submitted a false affidavit denying the affair. It was at this point that Tripp handed over her tapes to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Clinton denied the affair under oath.

News of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair broke in January 1998 and immediately dominated the media. Lewinsky spent weeks in hiding. She later reported that she had spent much of this stressful period knitting. After Starr obtained a blue dress of Lewinsky's stained with Clinton's semen, the president admitted to an inappropriate relationship.

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Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. The hearing is titled "U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square Park." Photographer: Bonnie Cash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deb Haaland

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09: John Major attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 9, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. People across the UK gather to pay tribute to service personnel who have died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, with this year taking on added significance as it is the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

John Major

Life Post-Scandal

Lewinsky's affair with President Clinton made her a pop-culture star. A Barbara Walters interview in which Lewinsky apologized to the Clintons drew record ratings. Lewinsky also cooperated with Andrew Morton on a 1999 biography titled Monica's Story.

Lewinsky experimented with a number of career paths after the scandal. She designed a handbag line, promoted the Jenny Craig weight-loss system and appeared as a television correspondent and host. In 2002, Lewinsky took audience questions during the taping of the HBO special Monica in Black and White.

Eager to escape the spotlight, Lewinsky moved to London, England, in 2005. The following year, she graduated from the London School of Economics with a master's degree in social psychology.

In 2013, some of Lewinsky's clothing and personal effects were put up for auction. The items, which had been submitted to the Starr investigation in the 1990s, included a black negligee and a letter signed by President Clinton.

'Vanity Fair' Essay

In early 2018, after the #MeToo movement emboldened women to speak out about experiences with sexual harassment and misconduct, Lewinsky penned a powerful essay for Vanity Fair

Noting how "something fundamental changed in our society" after the public revelations of her scandal with Clinton, and that more changes were afoot with the "second year of the Trump presidency in a post-Cosby-Ailes-O’Reilly-Weinstein-Spacey-Whoever-Is-Next world," she wrote that she no longer felt alone after years of being shamed for her part in a relationship with such a mismatched power dynamic.

Later that year, Lewinsky featured prominently in the three-night documentary series The Clinton Affair on A&E. Early in 2019, she sat with John Oliver of Late Night Tonight to discuss the topic of public shaming.

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