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Friday, May 14, 2010
Early life and education
Monica Lewinsky 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. She is of Jewish descent. Her father is Bernhard Lewinsky, an oncologist, and her mother, Marcia Lewis, is an author; her parents' acrimonious separation and divorce during 1987 and 1988 had a significant effect on Monica. (Her father later married his wife Barbara; her mother later married R. Peter Straus, a media executive.) Growing up, the family attended Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and she attended its religious school. For her primary education she attended the John Thomas Dye School in Bel-Air. 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.
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. In 1993, she enrolled at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, graduating with a psychology degree in 1995.
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. She moved to a paid position in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in December 1995.
Main article: Lewinsky scandal
Between November 1995 and March 1997, Lewinsky had an intimate relationship with President Bill Clinton. She later testified that the relationship involved fellatio in the Oval Office and other sexual contact, but that sexual intercourse did not occur.
Clinton had previously been confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct, most notably in regard to an alleged long-term relationship with singer Gennifer Flowers and an encounter with Arkansas state employee Paula Jones (née Corbin); these events were alleged to have occurred during Clinton's time as Governor of Arkansas. Paula Jones filed a civil lawsuit against Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Lewinsky's name surfaced during legal proceedings connected to the latter allegation, when Jones' lawyers sought corroborating evidence of Clinton's conduct to substantiate her allegations.
In April 1996, Lewinsky's superiors relocated her job to The Pentagon because they felt she was spending too much time around Clinton. 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 infamously known as "the blue dress."
While under oath, Clinton denied having had "a sexual affair," "sexual relations," or "a sexual relationship" with Lewinsky, and on January 26, 1998 claimed "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" in a nationally televised White House news conference.
Clinton also said, "there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship" 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" (i.e., he was not, at the time he made that statement, still having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky). Under pressure from Starr, who, as Clinton learned, 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 admitted that he lied to the American people and that he had inappropriate intimate contact with Lewinsky. Clinton denied having committed perjury because, according to Clinton, the legal definition 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.
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."
The affair led to a period of pop culture celebrity for Lewinsky as a younger-generation focus of a political storm. 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."
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. She cooperated with Andrew Morton in his telling of her life and her side of the Clinton affair, Monica's Story. The book was published in March 1999 and also excerpted as the cover story in Time magazine. 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. 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. In September 1999, Lewinsky took this interest further by beginning to sell a line of handbags bearing her name, under the company name The Real Monica, Inc. They were sold online as well as at Henri Bendel in New York, Fred Segal in California, and The Cross in London. Lewinsky both designed the bags – described by New York magazine as "hippie-ish, reversible totes" – and traveled frequently to supervise their manufacturing in Louisiana.
At the start of 2000, Lewinsky began appearing in television commercials for Jenny Craig, Inc. The $1 million endorsement deal, which required Lewinsky to lose 40 or more pounds in six months, gained considerable publicity at the time. 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, 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." 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.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.
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. 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.
In March 2002, Lewinsky – no longer bound by the terms of her agreement with the United States Office of the Independent Counsel – appeared in the HBO special "Monica in Black and White", part of the America Undercover series. In it, she answered a studio audience's questions about her life and the Clinton affair.
Lewinsky was the host of the reality television dating program Mr. Personality on Fox Television Network in 2003. There she advised young women contestants who were picking men hidden by masks. Some Americans tried to organize a boycott of advertisers on the show, in protest of Lewinsky capitalizing on her notoriety. Nevertheless, the show debuted to very high ratings, 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." However, the ratings slid each successive week, and after the show completed its limited run it did not reappear. 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.
After Clinton's autobiography My Life appeared in 2004, Lewinsky said in an interview with the British tabloid Daily Mail:
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., with both her professional and personal life difficult. She stopped selling her handbag line and moved to London. In December 2006, Lewinsky graduated with a master's degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics where she had been studying since September 2005. 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.
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 about his relationship with her: "There was no leeway [there] on the veracity of his statements because they asked him detailed and specific questions to which he answered untruthfully."