Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky, May 1997
Born Monica Samille Lewinsky
July 23, 1973 (1973-07-23) (age 38)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Education Bachelor's degree in Psychology (Lewis & Clark College)
Master's degree in Social Psychology (London School of Economics)
Occupation White House intern
Fashion designer
Television personality

Monica Samille Lewinsky (born July 23, 1973) is an American woman with whom United States President Bill Clinton admitted to having had an "improper relationship"[1] while she worked at the White House in 1995 and 1996. The affair and its repercussions (which included the impeachment of Bill Clinton) became known as the Lewinsky scandal.


Early life and education

Monica Samille Lewinsky[2] was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in an affluent family in Southern California in the Westside Brentwood area of Los Angeles and in Beverly Hills.[3][4][5] Her father is Bernard Lewinsky, an oncologist, who is the son of German Jews who escaped Nazi Germany and emigrated to El Salvador and later the United States.[3][6] Her mother, born Marcia Kaye Vilensky, is the daughter of a Lithuanian Jewish father and a Russian-Romanian Jewish mother;[7][8] she is an author who uses the name Marcia Lewis.[6] Monica's parents' acrimonious separation and divorce during 1987 and 1988 had a significant effect on her.[3][9] (Her father later married his wife Barbara;[5] her mother later married R. Peter Straus, a media executive.[10])

The family attended Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and Monica attended Sinai Akiba Academy, its religious school.[5] For her primary education she attended the John Thomas Dye School in Bel-Air.[11] She then attended Beverly Hills High School, but for her senior year transferred to and graduated from Bel Air Prep (later known as Pacific Hills School) in 1991.[3][4]

She attended two-year community college Santa Monica College, and worked for the drama department at Beverly Hills High School and at a tie shop.[3][9] In 1993, she enrolled at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, graduating with a psychology degree in 1995.[3][4][9]

Taking advantage of a family connection, Lewinsky moved to Washington, D.C. to work at the White House as an unpaid summer intern starting in July 1995 in the office of White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.[3][9] She moved to a paid position in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in December 1995.[3]


Between November 1995 and March 1997, Lewinsky alleged that she had had nine sexual encounters with then-President Bill Clinton that, according to her testimony, involved fellatio and other sexual contact in the Oval Office, but that did not involve actual sexual intercourse.[12]

Clinton previously had been confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct during his time as Governor of Arkansas, including a civil lawsuit filed against Clinton by former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones, alleging that he had sexually harassed her. Lewinsky's name surfaced during the discovery phase of Jones' case, when Jones lawyers sought to show a pattern of behavior by Clinton that involved sexual relationships with other government employees.[13]

In April 1996, Lewinsky's superiors transferred her from the White House to The Pentagon because they felt she was spending too much time around Clinton.[3] Lewinsky confided in a co-worker named Linda Tripp about her relationship with the President. Beginning in September 1997, Tripp began secretly recording their telephone conversations regarding the affair with Clinton. In January 1998, after Lewinsky had submitted an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying any physical relationship with Clinton, and attempted to persuade Tripp to lie under oath in the Jones case, Tripp gave the tapes to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and these tapes added to his ongoing investigation into the Whitewater controversy. Starr broadened his investigation to include investigating Lewinsky, Clinton, and others for possible perjury and subornation of perjury in the Jones case. Noteworthy for its revelation of Tripp's motivations was her reporting of their conversations to literary agent Lucianne Goldberg. Tripp also convinced Lewinsky to save the gifts that Clinton had given her during their affair, and not to dry clean what would later be known as "the blue dress." While under oath, Clinton denied having had "a sexual affair", "sexual relations", or "a sexual relationship" with Lewinsky.[14]

News of the Clinton–Lewinsky relationship broke in January 1998. On January 26, 1998, Clinton claimed "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" in a nationally televised White House news conference.[15] The matter instantly occupied the news media and Lewinsky spent the next weeks hiding from public attention in her mother's residence within the Watergate complex.[6]

Clinton had also said, "there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship"[15] which he defended as truthful on August 17, 1998, hearing because of the use of the present tense, famously arguing "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is"[16] (i.e., he was not, at the time he made that statement, still having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky). Under pressure from Starr, who had obtained from Lewinsky a blue dress with Clinton's semen stain, as well as testimony from Lewinsky that the President had inserted a cigar tube into her vagina, Clinton stated, "I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate."[1] Clinton denied having committed perjury because, according to Clinton, the legal definition[17] of oral sex was not encompassed by "sex" per se. In addition, relying upon the definition of "sexual relations" as proposed by the prosecution and agreed by the defense and by Judge Susan Webber Wright, who was hearing the Paula Jones case, Clinton claimed that because certain acts were performed on him, not by him, he did not engage in sexual relations. Lewinsky's testimony to the Starr Commission, however, contradicted Clinton's claim of being totally passive in their encounters.[18]

Both Clinton and Lewinsky were called before a grand jury; Clinton testified via closed-circuit television, Lewinsky in person. Given an opportunity to offer final words on the matter, Lewinsky told the jury, "I hate Linda Tripp."[19]

Subsequent life

The affair led to a period of pop culture celebrity for Lewinsky as a younger-generation focus of a political storm.[20][21] In early 1999, Lewinsky declined to sign an autograph in an airport, saying, "I'm kind of known for something that's not so great to be known for."[22]

On March 3, 1999, Lewinsky was interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20; the program was watched by 70 million Americans, which ABC said was a record for a news show.[23] She cooperated with Andrew Morton in his telling of her life and her side of the Clinton affair, Monica's Story.[23][24] The book was published in March 1999 and also excerpted as the cover story in Time magazine.[23][24] Lewinsky made about $500,000 from her participation in the book and another $1 million from international rights to the Walters interview, but was still beset by high legal bills and living costs.[25] Lewinsky made a cameo appearance as herself in two sketches during the May 8, 1999, episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, a program that had lampooned her relationship with Clinton over the prior sixteen months.

By her own account, Lewinsky had survived the intense media attention during the scandal period by knitting.[25] In September 1999, Lewinsky took this interest further by beginning to sell a line of handbags bearing her name,[26] under the company name The Real Monica, Inc.[25] They were sold online as well as at Henri Bendel in New York, Fred Segal in California, and The Cross in London.[25][26][27] Lewinsky both designed the bags—described by New York magazine as "hippie-ish, reversible totes"—and traveled frequently to supervise their manufacturing in Louisiana.[25]

At the start of 2000, Lewinsky began appearing in television commercials for Jenny Craig, Inc.[28] The $1 million endorsement deal, which required Lewinsky to lose 40 or more pounds in six months, gained considerable publicity at the time.[25] Lewinsky said that despite her desire to return to a more private life, she needed the money to pay off legal fees and that she believed in the product,[29] while a Jenny Craig spokesperson said of Lewinsky, "She represents a busy active woman of today with a hectic lifestyle. And she has had weight issues and weight struggles for a long time. That represents a lot of women in America."[28] The choice of Lewinsky as a role model proved controversial for Jenny Craig, and some of its private franchises switched to an older advertising campaign.[25][29] Jenny Craig stopped running the Lewinsky ads in February, concluded her campaign entirely in April 2000, and only paid her $300,000 for her involvement.[25][29]

Also at the start of 2000, Lewinsky moved to New York City, living in the West Village and becoming an A-list guest in the Manhattan social scene.[25] In February 2000, Lewinsky appeared on MTV's The Tom Green Show in an episode in which the host took her to his parents' home in Ottawa in search of fabric for her new business. Later in 2000, Lewinsky worked as a correspondent for British Channel 5 on the show Monica's Postcards, reporting on U.S. culture and trends from a variety of locations.[25][30]

In March 2002, Lewinsky–no longer bound by the terms of her agreement with the United States Office of the Independent Counsel[25]–appeared in the HBO special "Monica in Black and White", part of the America Undercover series.[31] In it, she answered a studio audience's questions about her life and the Clinton affair.[31]

Lewinsky was the host of the reality television dating program Mr. Personality on Fox Television Network in 2003.[20] There she advised young women contestants who were picking men hidden by masks.[32] Some Americans tried to organize a boycott of advertisers on the show, in protest of Lewinsky capitalizing on her notoriety.[33] Nevertheless, the show debuted to very high ratings,[32] and The New York Times said that "after years of trying to cash in on her fame by designing handbags and other self-marketing schemes, Ms. Lewinsky has finally found a fitting niche on television."[34] However, the ratings slid each successive week,[35] and after the show completed its limited run it did not reappear.[36] The same year, she appeared as a guest on the programs V Graham Norton in the UK, High Chaparall in Sweden, and The View and Jimmy Kimmel Live! in the U.S.[36]

After Clinton's autobiography My Life appeared in 2004, Lewinsky said in an interview with the British tabloid Daily Mail:[37]

He could have made it right with the book, but he hasn't. He is a revisionist of history. He has lied. [...] I really didn't expect him to go into detail about our relationship. [...] But if he had and he'd done it honestly, I wouldn't have minded. [...] I did, though, at least expect him to correct the false statements he made when he was trying to protect the Presidency. Instead, he talked about it as though I had laid it all out there for the taking. I was the buffet and he just couldn't resist the dessert. [...] This was a mutual relationship, mutual on all levels, right from the way it started and all the way through. [...] I don't accept that he had to completely desecrate my character.

By 2005, Lewinsky found that she could not escape the spotlight in the U.S., which made both her professional and personal life difficult.[20] She stopped selling her handbag line[26] and moved to London.[20] In December 2006, Lewinsky graduated with a master's degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics[38] where she had been studying since September 2005.[39] Her thesis was titled "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third-person effect and Pre-Trial Publicity". She has since tried to avoid publicity.[20]

Lewinsky did correspond in 2009 with scholar Ken Gormley, who was writing an in-depth study of the Clinton scandals, maintaining that Clinton had lied under oath when asked detailed and specific questions about his relationship with her.[40]


  1. ^ a b Baker, Peter; John F. Harris (August 18, 1998). "Clinton Admits to Lewinsky Relationship, Challenges Starr to End Personal 'Prying'". The Washington Post: p. A01. 
  2. ^ Morton, Andrew R. (1999). Monica's Story. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 357. ISBN 0-312-97362-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Leen, Jeff (January 24, 1998). "Lewinsky: Two Coasts, Two Lives, Many Images". The Washington Post: p. A01. 
  4. ^ a b c Aiken, Jonathan (August 6, 1998). "Who Is Monica Lewinsky?". CNN. 
  5. ^ a b c Tugend, Tom (January 30, 1998). "L.A. temple fends off Lewinsky inquiries". j.. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 
  6. ^ a b c Pooley, Eric (February 23, 1998). "Monica's World". TIME. 
  7. ^ "Monica's Mom Defended" August 09, 1998, New York Daily News
  8. ^ Italiano, Laura (October 3, 1998). "Monica's mother's breakdown revealed". The New York Post. 
  9. ^ a b c d Green, Michelle (February 9, 1998). "Scandal at 1600". People.,,20124429,00.html. 
  10. ^ "Lewinsky's mother to wed media executive". CNN. February 2, 1998. 
  11. ^ At Pacific Hills School (formerly Bel-Air Prep), she won the "Outstanding Junior of the Year" award. "That Girl" by Leonard Gill, March 15, 1999. Memphis Flyer book review. Accessed December 18, 2006.
  12. ^ "Lewinsky and the first lady". USA Today. Associated Press. March 19, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Paula Jones' lawyers want Lewinsky evidence". Gettysburg Times. Associated Press: p. A3. April 1, 1998.,13572. 
  14. ^ Starr Report: Nature of President Clinton's Relationship with Monica Lewinsky Accessed December 18, 2006.
  15. ^ a b The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: President Bill Clinton January 21, 1998
  16. ^ Videotaped Testimony of William Jefferson Clinton Before the Grand Jury Empaneled for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr August 17, 1998
  17. ^ "Perjury about sexual relations from the Paula Jones deposition" by Steve Kangas. Accessed February 12, 2006
  18. ^ Bennet, James; Abramson, Jill (1998-09-20). "Lawyers say tape of Clinton shows regret and anger". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Black, Jane (1998-09-11). "Linda Tripp: Friend and Foe". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "Where Are They Now: The Clinton Impeachment: Monica Lewinsky". TIME. January 9, 2009.,28804,1870544_1870543_1870550,00.html. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  21. ^ In June 1999, Ms. Magazine published a series of articles by writer Susan Jane Gilman, sexologist Susie Bright, and author-host Abiola Abrams arguing from three generations of women whether Lewinsky's behavior had any meaning for feminism. "Oral Report", "The Beauty & The Brains", "Dear Monica".
  22. ^ Leonard Pitts (February 14, 2000). "For Lewinsky, fame the same as notoriety" (fee required). Miami Herald. [dead link]
  23. ^ a b c Cloud, John (March 8, 1999). "Monica's makeover". CNN. 
  24. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (March 5, 1999). "'Monica's Story': Tawdry and Tiresome". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Grigoriadis, Vanessa (March 19, 2001). "Monica Takes Manhattan". New York. 
  26. ^ a b c "Is the Lewinsky Affair Over?". Vogue. May 27, 2004. 
  27. ^ "Monica: It's In the Bag". People. January 12, 1999 [date may be incorrect].,,616490,00.html. 
  28. ^ a b Hays, Constance L. (December 28, 1999). "Monica Lewinsky Meets Jenny Craig, and a Spokeswoman Is Born". The New York Times. 
  29. ^ a b c "Lewinsky trimmed from slimming ads". BBC News. April 13, 2000. 
  30. ^ "Now Monica shows off her 'Postcards' on UK TV". Associated Press/South African Press Association. Independent Online. September 24, 2000. 
  31. ^ a b James, Caryn (March 3, 2002). "Telling Her Own Story, Selling Her New Self". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ a b Carter, Bill (April 23, 2003). "'Mr. Personality,' featuring Monica Lewinsky, draws the young audience of advertisers' dreams". The New York Times. 
  33. ^ "People". Saint Paul Pioneer Press: p. C8. April 27, 2003. 
  34. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (April 23, 2003). "The Name of the Game Is Class, Guys and Gals, or the Lack of It". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ ""Mr. Personality" (2003)". Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  36. ^ a b "Monica Lewinsky". Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  37. ^ "Lewinsky: Clinton lies about relationship in his new book". USA Today. Associated Press. June 25, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  38. ^ "Monica Lewinsky Earns Master's Degree in London". Fox News. December 21, 2006.,2933,238021,00.html. Retrieved December 27, 2006. 
  39. ^ MacLeod, Donald (September 7, 2005). "Lewinsky to study psychology at LSE". The Guardian (London). Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  40. ^ Gerstein, Josh; Harris, John F. (December 17, 2009). "Monica's back – says Clinton lied". The Politico. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 

Further reading

  • Berlant, Lauren, and Duggan, Lisa. Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the Public Interest (Sexual Cultures). New York: New York University Press, 2001.
  • Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. New York: Knopf, 2004.
  • Kalb, Marvin. One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Thirteen Days That Tarnished American Journalism. New York: Free Press, 2001.

External links

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