Nearly 20 years after Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment, a new docuseries, The Clinton Affair, looks back at that time — and features commentary from Lewinsky herself.
The White House’s most famous intern, who has gone on to find her voice writing about the #MeToo movement and being an antibullying advocate, wrote in a new essay for Vanity Fair that she agreed to participate largely because history — and specifically the history of Clinton’s impeachment — is mostly written by men. However, this A&E docuseries — unlike the books written about the president’s impeachment — includes more women’s voices. Four of the five executive producers are women as well as two of the three main editors. (The other EP is Academy Award- and Emmy-winning producer Alex Gibney.)
“I may not like everything that has been put in the series or left out, but I like that the perspective is being shaped by women,” Lewinsky wrote. “Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful. But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life — a time in our history — I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
Lewinsky, now 45, discusses the 20-plus hours of interviews she did for the project, which is a lot considering the whole thing is 6 1/2 hours total and features interviews from more than 50 people. In preparation, she read old newspaper clippings, and taking herself back to that time triggered traumatic memories and led to therapy sessions in which she addressed her grief over it. Revisiting it made her feel “depressed,” “ashamed” and full of “regret.”
“The process of this docuseries led me to new rooms of shame that I still needed to explore,” she wrote, “and delivered me to Grief’s doorstep. 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. Grief for a relationship that had no normal closure, and instead was slowly dismantled by two decades of Bill Clinton’s behavior that eventually (eventually!) helped me understand how, at 22, I took the small, narrow sliver of the man I knew and mistook it for the whole.”
In the piece, Lewinsky also addressed whether she feels she is owed an apology by Clinton, who said recently that he apologized publicly then and doesn’t feel he needs to apologize again.
“So, 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.”
Lewinsky also said that although she already publicly apologized to Hillary Clinton and Chelsea during her first interview after the scandal in 1999 — “my first public words” — if she were to see Hillary in person, she’d do it face-to-face — despite Hillary insisting her husband’s affair with an intern wasn’t an abuse of power.
“I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am,” she wrote. “I know I would do this, because I have done it in other difficult situations related to 1998. I have also written letters apologizing to others — including some who also wronged me gravely. I believe that when we are trapped by our inability to evolve, by our inability to empathize humbly and painfully with others, then we remain victims ourselves.”
The Clinton Affair premieres on Sunday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. on A&E.
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