Bill Clinton, here's how to apologize to Monica Lewinsky

I was disappointed to see that former President Bill Clinton admitted on "Today" that he has ...

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 8:15 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2018 8:15 AM

I was disappointed to see that former President Bill Clinton admitted on "Today" that he has never personally apologized to Monica Lewinsky. His former intern and lover deserves better.

First let me be clear that I don't think their consensual affair was morally wrong or a "sin," in Clinton's parlance. That's not for me to say. While Clinton abused the power of his office, he did not, by any of Lewinsky's accounts, coerce her into sexual activity. I'll also start with an apology of my own: I apologize if my first published erotica story, the one that launched my erotic writing career, "Monica and Me," a fictional account of a woman named Rachel and the titular Ms. Lewinsky, contributed to a culture of objectification. That was never my intention, but rather to explore my fascination with Lewinsky's then-image as a fun-loving woman about town, one who'd been wronged on a mass scale.

Where Bill Clinton failed Monica Lewinsky was in later stating on national television, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

I heard Lewinsky speak at a charity lunch at a Boca Raton JCC last year. While her specific remarks were confidential, and largely echoed her TED Talk, "The Price of Shame," what I clearly recall is that even almost 20 years later, she still felt anguish over the way she and her family were treated by Ken Starr. That pain could have been avoided had Clinton been more honest and honorable.

His statement to "Today" touts his accomplishments as a politician, including the number of women in his Cabinet, and that two-thirds of the American public sided with him. He also said that he apologized "to everyone in the world." But these attempts to justify himself show he doesn't understand the very real, long-lasting harm he did to a young woman who had the power of the government pressuring her so intensely that her mother made her shower with the door open out of concern for her safety.

Somehow, Clinton seems even decades later to have a persecution complex around his own mistakes (as does our current president). Yes, his legacy was tarnished. Yes, he left the White House in debt, as he mentioned on "Today." Yes, he helped ruin his wife's chances of becoming president herself. He was punished, but Lewinsky was punished far more harshly -- because she's a woman whose sex life was made public.

In her debut 2014 Vanity Fair essay, Lewinsky recounted the trouble she's had finding employment since the scandal, her famous name a hindrance no matter what industry she attempted to join.

Neither Clinton nor Lewinsky can change history, though I imagine both would go back and do things much differently. Nobody is asking for Clinton to spend the rest of his life offering an exaggerated mea culpa. But for an apology to be truly effective, it needs to be made to the right person, likely in private to truly clear the air.

Sadly, Clinton's dismissive attitude is one that's echoed by the larger culture. In that same interview, Clinton's co-author, James Patterson, said, "Let's talk about JFK, let's talk about LBJ. Stop already" in the middle of discussing Lewinsky. What do dead presidents' affairs have to do with this specific case?

It was just a few weeks ago that Town & Country magazine disinvited Lewinsky from a social change summit because Clinton had just RSVPed to present an award to Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez. While the magazine later issued an apology, the damage had been done.

Lewinsky deserves to live an adult life that isn't completely subsumed by her past. We all collectively need to move on from jokes about the beret or blue dress. I admire the fact that she's used her notoriety for good as an anti-bullying ambassador.

Our culture has made great strides since 1998 around women's sexual autonomy. The #MeToo movement has flourished under a president who has bragged about grabbing women by our genitals. But we've been less clear about what to do with cases like Lewinsky, where she, by her own account, fell in love with her boss.

Some believe Clinton wronged the American people. I don't agree. But I think it's undeniable that he wronged Lewinsky by lying and obfuscating about minutiae regarding the definition of the word "is." By doing so, he allowed our culture to run wild with an image of Lewinsky as a slutty temptress, rather than a young, passionate woman who made a mistake that she will pay for the rest of her life.

It doesn't matter that Clinton had two female chiefs of staff as governor, as he took pains to point out in the "Today" interview, if he fails to take full responsibility for how his mistreatment of Lewinsky left her open to what was essentially government-sanctioned bullying by Ken Starr and slut-shaming by the entire world.

Lewinsky deserves an apology for being framed as if Clinton was somehow an innocent bystander to activities involving his own penis. This is not about politics, or public image, or even sex. It's about telling the truth, even when it's inconvenient or paints the truth teller in a bad light.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 664446

Reported Deaths: 12663
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion909511650
Lake48568884
Allen36004640
Hamilton32182398
St. Joseph30166513
Elkhart25453419
Vanderburgh21300382
Tippecanoe20143203
Johnson16407361
Porter16042276
Hendricks15877300
Clark12018181
Madison11776319
Vigo11660231
Monroe10379163
Delaware9870179
LaPorte9802198
Howard9083199
Kosciusko8582111
Bartholomew7488147
Warrick7438151
Hancock7428133
Floyd7243170
Wayne6648192
Grant6446157
Boone610989
Morgan6106126
Dubois5925112
Dearborn549969
Cass547299
Marshall5439105
Henry542594
Noble510578
Jackson465167
Shelby461991
Lawrence4193113
Harrison402564
Gibson402083
Clinton396753
Montgomery389683
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350237
Huntington347377
Steuben339555
Wabash332676
Putnam331260
Ripley327862
Adams324749
Jasper318143
White297952
Jefferson295874
Daviess285696
Fayette272156
Decatur271188
Greene262080
Posey261431
Wells258675
Scott251350
LaGrange241870
Clay241444
Randolph225676
Spencer218930
Jennings216344
Washington212827
Sullivan203639
Fountain202142
Starke189051
Owen183253
Fulton179837
Jay178528
Carroll176619
Perry173736
Orange171250
Rush165322
Vermillion161442
Franklin159635
Tipton148441
Parke140016
Pike128233
Blackford120727
Pulaski107344
Newton96632
Brown95140
Benton92213
Crawford91713
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54011
Unassigned0432

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 974480

Reported Deaths: 16750
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1125851214
Cuyahoga964441832
Hamilton736841034
Montgomery47424903
Summit40474802
Butler35678505
Lucas35588685
Stark29495803
Warren22510271
Lorain22111414
Mahoning19532537
Lake18471318
Clermont18459201
Delaware16537116
Licking15037189
Fairfield14587180
Trumbull14381413
Greene13626218
Medina13448226
Clark12319248
Wood11604163
Portage11078164
Allen10804216
Richland10334183
Miami10048189
Muskingum8204112
Columbiana8160200
Pickaway8079107
Tuscarawas8063227
Marion8006125
Wayne7898193
Erie6925140
Ross6161128
Geauga6097136
Hancock6013116
Ashtabula5993152
Scioto597780
Lawrence527218
Union515237
Darke5040114
Belmont497659
Huron4838107
Jefferson4814107
Sandusky4785108
Seneca4709107
Washington470991
Athens465447
Mercer459180
Auglaize456480
Shelby442479
Knox4045101
Putnam400090
Madison394253
Ashland381381
Fulton381258
Defiance372983
Brown372244
Crawford359096
Logan356072
Preble353678
Clinton341152
Highland328649
Ottawa324869
Williams302962
Jackson290745
Champaign289249
Guernsey288444
Perry270447
Fayette269441
Morrow260934
Henry247058
Hardin246558
Holmes243493
Coshocton238054
Van Wert230154
Gallia223131
Adams217436
Pike216026
Wyandot211747
Hocking194754
Carroll181641
Paulding160530
Meigs135930
Noble129333
Monroe116927
Morgan101119
Harrison100724
Vinton76613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 41°
Angola
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 34°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 39°
Fort Wayne
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 41°
Lima
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 36°
Seasonal Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events