With that tweet, Monica Lewinsky – one of the most controversial figures in American political history – stepped back onto the national political stage, even as the wife of the president to whom Lewinsky is forever tied is considering her own White House bid.
Lewinsky posted her first tweet Monday morning, just before delivering her first public speech in 13 years at a conference hosted by Forbes magazine. The term “Monica Lewinsky” quickly became a trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter.
In 1995, as a 22-year old White House intern, Lewinsky began a physical relationship with then-President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment by the Republican-controlled House in 1998.
“I fell in love with my boss. He was the president of the United States,” she told the magazine’s “Under 30 Conference” in Philadelphia, according to attendees who tweeted her remarks. “I was Patient Zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed by the Internet.”
Lewinsky was reportedly emotional during the speech, opening by saying, “My name is Monica Lewinsky – though I’ve often been advised to change it.”
While Lewinsky is no longer under 30 – she’s now 41, to be precise – Forbes explained that it wanted her to speak because she has a unique perspective on digital harassment that affect many young people today. “[Bill Clinton] and the rest of the world moved on – but she could not, a fate now realized, on various scales, by millions of people – from Jennifer Lawrence to random junior high schoolers—who find themselves tarred in public, permanent ways,” the magazine explained.
Hackers obtained nude photos of Lawrence and a slew of other female celebrities this summer, posting them on the Web and subjecting the women to online persecution. The recent “Gamergate” scandal has also drawn attention to online harassment, a particular scourge for women.
“I want to put my suffering to good use and a purpose to my past,” Lewinsky said.
Lewinsky will captain a pub trivia team Monday night at a local bar for a tournament sponsored by the conference.
Lewinsky has mostly laid low since being at the center of a White House sex scandal, emerging only occasionally in public. Earlier this year, she published a personal essay in Vanity Fair, apparently timed to Hillary Clinton’s reemergence in politics.
In that essay, she vowed to stop “tiptoeing around my past – and other people’s futures,” in an apparent reference to the former first lady’s likely presidential campaign. Needless to say, Lewinsky is unwanted and unpleasant distraction for Clinton, who has said she has “moved on” from the scandal.
But Lewinsky is not ready to go away quietly. “I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past,” she wrote in the essay.