Monica Lewinsky found herself thrust into the national spotlight in the ’90s after word of her affair with then-president Bill Clinton got out and caused a political upheaval, but in the years that have passed, she’s stayed relatively under the radar. Not wanting to continue being the butt of jokes and ridicule, Lewinsky kept quiet about the scandal–which occurred when she worked as a White House intern in her early 20’s–until fairly recently. Now, a new TED talk addresses the ways she was scorned by a public who never bothered to understand who she was.
“Now I admit I made mistakes — especially wearing that beret — but the attention and judgment that I received — not the story, but that I personally received — was unprecedented. I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul,” Lewinsky said.
The scandal may be decades old, but Lewinsky has found herself in the spotlight once again now that rumors about Hillary Clinton possibly running for office herself have spread. Her TED talk focused on cyber-bullying and how easy it is to forget–in this age of anonymous technology–that there is a person on the other end of a comment with very real emotions.
“Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion and empathy,” Lewinsky said.
Monica made headlines earlier this year when artist Nelson Shanks announced he had carefully hidden a reference to her affair with Clinton in the former president’s portrait, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” Shanks said.