It has been 18 years since U.S. President Bill Clinton admitted to the national media that he was engaged in an extramarital affair with a former intern at the White House, Monika Lewinsky. The news of the affair came to light in 1998 when Clinton was accused of sexual harassment by Paula Jones, an employee at the White House.
Then 49-year-old Clinton and 22-year-old Lewinsky were involved in an affair between 1995 and 1996. She had joined the White House as an unpaid intern in June 1995, and the affair began in November 1995.
Lewinsky confided in Linda Tripp, who worked with her in the Defense Department, and told her details about the relationship. This was to be the downfall of Clinton and Lewinsky. Tripp recorded the conversations she had with Lewinsky and shared the recordings with her own lawyer.
A scandal that shook the nation
In January 1998, Lewinsky was called in to testify in the sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones against Clinton. Under oath, she said that she had never been involved in any relationship with Clinton.
At this point, Tripp decided to tell the whole story to Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel. Starr was at that time investigating Clinton on matters such as the Whitewater scandal and the White House FBI files issue.
It was on an online platform that the news of the scandal first broke out in January 1998, to be quickly picked up by mainstream media. Allegations that Clinton told Lewinsky to lie in the Paula Jones case also came to light.
Clinton repeatedly issued statements denying the affair. His line, “I did not have an affair with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”, became popular. Hillary Clinton stood by her husband's side while allegations flared up against him, even saying that it was a right-wing conspiracy.
The confession that almost led to impeachment
Lewinsky, on the other hand, refused to testify for or against the allegations. She later agreed in July 1998 when she was assured of immunity. She testified, and produced a blue semen-stained dress as evidence. A few days later in August, Clinton admitted to the “not appropriate” relationship three times: first in front of the grand jury, then to the White House staff, and later at night, to the people of US.
In the aftermath of the scandal, Clinton faced impeachment. Senators in the Democratic and Republican parties saw his actions as “perjury and obstruction of justice”, and moved to have him impeached. However, Clinton was acquitted of all his charges, and went on to serve in office till 2000.
Hillary Clinton was reportedly “sad and snappy” about the media frenzy that followed, while reports also suggest that she knew about the affair all along.
Lewinsky, who became a household name and faced hate from media and people, had said that she was 'very close' to suicide, but never attempted it. She kept away from media spotlight until 2014, when she chose to speak up against cyberbullying. Today, she works as an anti-bullying advocate, particularly for teen who are victims of cyberbullying.