(WASHINGTON) -- Monica Lewinsky nearly broke down in tears Monday as she recounted her experience as “patient zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”
In what she called her “first public talk,” Lewinsky vowed to “give purpose to my past” by speaking publicly about life after her affair with then-President Bill Clinton.
“My name is Monica Lewinsky – though I’ve often been advised to change it,” the president’s former mistress began.
“Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college, a twenty-two-year-old intern in the White House — and more than averagely romantic — I fell in love with my boss, in a twenty-two-year-old sort of a way. It happens,” she said. “But my boss was the president of the United States. That probably happens less often.”
In the wake of the blue dress, the beret, and the salacious Starr report, Lewinsky says, she “came close to disintegrating.”
“I was threatened in various ways. First, with an FBI sting in a shopping mall....Immediately following, in a nearby hotel room, I was threatened with up to 27 years in jail for denying the affair in an affidavit,” she recalled. “Twenty-seven years. When you’re only 24 yourself that’s a long time.”
Choking back tears, she continued that she was “chillingly told that my mother, too — sorry — that my mother, too, might face prosecution if I didn’t cooperate and wear a wire.”
As her life unraveled in public, Lewinsky says, she heard “a relentless mantra in my head: I want to die.”
“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then. But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites complete with comment sections and emails could be forwarded,” she said. “Of course it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial-up.”
Paying tribute to Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student “humiliated to death” after classmates posted video of him kissing another man online, Lewinsky vowed to share her story despite the backlash.
“Today, I think of myself as someone who – who the hell knows how – survived....Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too.”
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