Monica Lewinsky has opened up about her decision to participate in a new docuseries titled The Clinton Affair, writing in a candid Op-Ed for Vanity Fair that she agreed to participate in the project after being told that it was being produced and edited almost entirely by women.
Sitting down for 20 hours of interviews for he docuseries was a painful, difficult, and anxiety-inducing process, Lewinsky wrote, partly because she had no control over the final product. The process, she explained, “Forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of.” But even more than shame, she said, what she found herself contending with was grief.
“Grief for the pain I caused others. Grief for the broken young woman I had been before and during my time in D.C., and the shame I still felt around that. Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’ — saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire.”
She also touched on the fact that finally after nearly two decades, Clinton is now being asked some of the uncomfortable questions that reporters largely overlooked in the years after the affair and after he left office. Referring to an NBC News interview earlier this year in which Clinton said Lewinsky didn’t deserve a personal apology from him, she wrote, “What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”
In retrospect, Lewinsky said she now understood the process by which Bill Clinton sought to protect his own credibility by “demonizing” her and referring to her simply as “that woman,” — the temptress who led him astray. She also noted that in a 2004 interview with Dan Rather, Clinton said that the reason why he pursued his relationship with Lewinsky was simple: “Because I could.” For those asking her why she chose to participate in the documentary, she said, she would give the same reply — with a minor caveat.
“Reliving the events of 1998 was traumatic, yes — but also worth it if it helps another young person avoid being ‘That Woman’-ed,” she wrote. And given that almost every book written about the Clinton impeachment was authored by men, she said, she felt it was important to also have a history that “embodies a woman’s gaze.”
The Clinton Affair is a three-part series that is set to premiere in the coming week, and it takes an unprecedented look at the scandal and the fallout that has ensued. The New York Post has screened several episodes and reports that the docuseries sheds light on various aspects of the relationship between the two and some of the most infamous evidence that proved it in the end.
“There were always narratives of secrecy in this relationship,” Lewinsky says in the series, according to the Post. “We were both cautious, but not cautious enough.” She added, “I was completely at his mercy,”
Watch two clips from The Clinton Affair below.
Read the full Op-Ed at Vanity Fair.