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Monica Lewinsky on why she's speaking out about Bill Clinton in new docuseries

"It’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words,” she says in a new Vanity Fair essay.
Monica Lewinsky explains why she's speaking out about Clinton
Monica Lewinsky explains in a new essay her decision to participate in a documentary series about Bill Clinton's impeachment.FilmMagic
/ Source: TODAY

Monica Lewinsky offers up her most detailed public reflection to date about the scandal that made her a household name in a new essay that also includes her strongest rebuke of the man who made her infamous.

In a new essay for Vanity Fair, Lewinsky explains why she agreed to be interviewed for a new A&E documentary series about the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton and the affair she had with him 20 years ago as a White House intern.

“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could. Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words,” she writes.

A&E released the first clips from the series on Tuesday. In one, Lewinsky talks about her first encounters with the FBI during which she says "the ground completely crumbled" beneath her after agents said they wanted to monitor her calls and potentially have her wear a wire.

Lewinsky, 45, notes that the project's director had pointed out to her that all the books about the Clinton impeachment were written by men. In contrast, most of the filmmakers behind the documentary were women.

"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," she writes in the essay. "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.”

She notes even the title of the series, "The Clinton Affair," reflects a significant change in perspective.

"Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal. I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle," she says.

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But that didn’t make the process of being asked to revisit “the most painful and traumatic” parts of her life any easier, especially since she would have no control of how it would be used.

“Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of,” she writes. “…The process of this docuseries led me to new rooms of shame that I still needed to explore, 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.”

Lewinsky also describes how she feels about having Clinton finally being asked directly about his role in the 1998 Oval Office scandal after repeatedly getting a pass by media.

"If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer," she says.

That changed this past June, when TODAY's Craig Melvin asked Clinton about his thoughts on the #MeToo movement and whether he owed Lewinsky a direct apology. Clinton awkwardly said he did not.

"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,” Lewinsky writes. “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."

But she reaffirmed that she still feels like she owes an apology to Clinton's wife, something she first said in a 1999 television interview. Lewinsky says that hasn't changed.

"If I were to see Hillary Clinton in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am,” she writes.

Lewinsky has only recently come back into the spotlight, becoming an outspoken advocate on issues that have affected her. In 2015, she gave a powerful TED Talk about cyberbullying. Earlier this year, she penned another essay for Vanity Fair that described how the #MeToo helped her feel less alone.