Monday, BBC News ran a piece entitled, “Monica Lewinsky and Stormy Daniels: Political scandals across two eras“, which compared and contrasted President Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal with l’affaire Stormy.
On May 23, the City of West Hollywood declared “Stormy Daniels Day” and presented the porn star with a ‘key to the city’, announcing, “In these politically tumultuous times, Daniels has proven herself to be a profile in courage by speaking truth to power even under threats to her safety and extreme intimidation.”
It got me wondering: where the hell is Monica Lewinsky‘s key to the city?
I’m not alone, as an Op/Ed by Lauren Appell demonstrates. Daniels, she writes, “claims she had a consensual affair with the president in 2006. If that is, in fact, true, there is nothing courageous about her. There is nothing to be applauded for having an affair with a married man. If that did happen, she’s every bit as guilty as him.
“Being a woman isn’t enough to make her a victim. Being a woman who has suddenly decided she doesn’t like President Trump isn’t enough to make her a hero.”
Let’s have a quick refresher:
All the President’s Semen
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” said Clinton, on January 26, 1998. The Clinton-Lewinsky case would become the most famous sex scandal denial by a politician since John Profumo, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, uttered another eleven-word denial in 1963: “There was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintanceship with Miss Keeler.”
Like Clinton, Profumo was lying.
President Clinton denied the affair under oath, which led to charges of perjury. (In nightmarish ‘Wag The Dog’ mode. Clinton would bomb of a suspected Osama bin Laden chemical plant in Sudan on the day of his testimony in the perjury trial, and later bomb Saddam Hussein’s Iraq on the eve of the House of Representatives’ vote on his impeachment.)
The Starr Report, compiled by independent counsel Kennet Starr, painted a devastating portrait of the president, who — we came to learn in horrific detail — over the course of more than 40 illicit encounters had used White House intern Lewinsky as his personal humidor, and enjoyed oral-genital and oral-anal contact in the Oval Office.
Christopher Buckley wrote, in 1999, “You don’t have to be Camille Paglia to believe that a little healthy carnality is good for the national soul. The key, of course, is discretion. It’s one thing to hear about the libidinous shenanigans of the Kennedy administration ten, fifteen years later. Some among us have surely, in the secret chambers of our hearts, murmured to ourselves, Marilyn? Angie Dickinson? You lucky dog! . . . . Rehearsing in the Oval Office study for the next cover of Cigar Aficionado is not the stuff of romantic legend. . . . Clinton’s legacy – apart from welfare reform and midnight basketball – will be that he turned sex into something to be winced at, rather than winked at.”
If Clinton had been the CEO of any American corporation, he would have been forced to resign and likely prosecuted for abusing the “power dynamic’ between executive and lowly worker.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Lewinsky wasn’t considered courageous or lauded as a heroine. West Hollywood didn’t declare a “Monica Lewinsky Day” or present her with a key to the city.
Prior to the revelation of the existence of a semem-flecked blue dress, Clinton, his wife Hillary, and their henchmen accused Lewinsky of being a slutty stalker.
And after the Clinton impeachment scandal, Democrats did everything possible to sweep Lewinsky under the carpet. The media, which now embraces Stormy Daniels, closed ranks around the Clintons.
One of the few writers or commentators who dared defend Lewinsky was the late Christopher Hitchens. As Douglas Brinkley wrote in the Foreword to the 12th Edition of Hitchens’ 1999 book, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton:
In 2002, Lewinsky wrote Hitchens, on pink stationery, mailed to him c/o The Nation, a note of gratitude for writing No One Left to Lie To and defending her as a talking head in the HBO film “Monica in Black and White”.
“I’m not sure you’ve seen the HBO documentary I participated in,” Lewinsky wrote Hitchens. “I wanted to thank you for being the only journalist to stand up against the Clinton spin machine (mainly Blumenthal) and reveal the genesis of the stalker story on television. Though I’m not sure people were ready to change their minds in ’99, I hope they heard you in the documentary. Your credibility superseded his denials.”
And, as the BBC notes, for more than a decade afterwards, Lewinsky kept out of the public eye.
Appell adds, “Lewinsky has had her fair share of shame and embarrassment for her bad choices, which follow her to this day. Even after earning a Master’s Degree, she has struggled to find work, and at one point even moved out of the country to gain more anonymity. One organization told Lewiski they’d need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons in order to hire her.”
In 2014, Lewinsky penned a 5,000-word essay for Vanity Fair entitled “Shame and survival”, writing that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and had struggled with suicidal thoughts during the court proceedings.
“Unlike the other parties involved, I was so young that I had no established identity to which I could return,” she concluded. “I didn’t ‘let this define’ me – I simply hadn’t had the life experience to establish my own identity in 1998. If you haven’t figured out who you are, it’s hard not to accept the horrible image of you created by others.”
Porn star Stormy Daniels claims she had consensual sex with Donald Trump, on one occasion, in 2006, a decade before his presidential bid, when he was starring in reality TV show “The Apprentice” and was newly married.
Not only did she sign a nondisclosure agreement, which she doubtless violated and is trying to get out of, but in January, she also signed a letter that said, “I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’, as has been reported in overseas-owned tabloids. I am denying this affair because it never happened.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers are seeking $20 million in damages from her, arguing she violated the hush agreement.
Enduring the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was humiliating and life-altering for Monica Lewinsky, but that’s certainly not the case for Daniels — and yet Stormy’s being called a victim as well as a hero.
“It’s doubtful [Daniels will] have to move out of the country or even have a difficult time finding a job,” writes Appell. “On the contrary, she’s actually being praised.”
Upon re-reading West Hollywood’s press statements, I have trouble finding a basis for denying Lewinsky a key — other than that the whole thing is simply a ridiculous partisan political statement masquerading as a celebration of virtue and sacrifice.
Honestly, even if we view the ‘key to the city’ stuff as nothing more than a media attention grab by a cluster of star fuckers, Lewinsky should still meet the standard.
After all, even the BBC reports that “To this day, many consider Clinton’s affair as the most memorable part of his presidency.”
More importantly, Lewinsky is now being seen as a role model by millennials, who weren’t reading the news in 1990s and are coming to the story through a new lens.
“When I learned more about the scandal in my teen years, she became a figure I really empathised with,” Eve Peyser, a 24-year-old New York journalist, told the BBC.
“I think my generation’s feminists generally think of Monica Lewinsky as a victim of high stakes workplace sexual misconduct.”
“It’s so disappointing that prominent feminists at the time failed to understand how sexist and demeaning politicians and the media were to Monica Lewinsky,” Peyser added.
She mentions writer Gloria Steinem, who downplayed harassment allegations against Bill Clinton in a controversial New York Times piece. The newspaper has since removed the article from its online archive and last year Ms. Steinem told the Guardian she would not write the same thing today.
While it’s heartening to learn that Gloria Steinem now knows better, what’s that to Monica Lewinsky? I honestly don’t think we can ever move forward, as a nation, as a culture, while such wrongs remain un-righted. A country, or should I say a political party, that celebrates Stormy Daniels while begrudgingly and half-heartedly acknowledging Miss Lewinsky, has a long long way to go to reach higher ground.
West Hollywood: Monica Lewinsky doesn’t need your stupid key to the city. But handing one to Stormy Daniels instead is a disgraceful — not to mention transparent — slap in the face.