MONICA LEWINSKY arrives at a Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills last March.
(photo credit: DANNY MOLOSHOK/ REUTERS)
Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern turned anti-bullying activist, gave an emotional speech in Jerusalem on Monday night before abruptly leaving at the start of an interview.
Lewinsky addressed the Channel 2 news conference about her experiences in the wake of the revelations of her affair with then-US president Bill Clinton. Following her speech, Lewinsky sat down for a scheduled talk with news anchor Yonit Levi.
Levi asked Lewinsky if she was still expecting a private apology from Clinton after all these years.
Lewinsky simply answered: “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to do this,” and quickly walked off the stage. Conference organizers did not give any reason for her abrupt departure. A spokesman would not say if Lewinsky left the stage because of the question itself.
On Twitter several hours later, Lewinsky said that she had been misled by Levi, who crossed the line.
"There were clear parameters about what we would be discussing and what we would not," she wrote on Twitter. Lewinsky said Levi had asked her that question a day earlier, and she had declared it off limits.
"When she asked me it on stage, with blatant disregard for our agreement, it became clear to me I had been misled. I left because it is more important than ever for women to stand up for themselves and not allow others to control their narrative."
In a statement, Channel 2 News said it thanked Lewinsky for her appearance, “and we respect her sensitivity and wish her luck.”
The news company later added that it made sure to honor all of her requests, and that "the question that was asked was legitimate, worthy and respectful, and in no way went beyond Ms. Lewinsky's requests."
Before leaving the stage, Lewinsky gave a thoughtful, emotional speech to the gathered crowd at the Jerusalem Convention Center.
“My strong sense of family is rooted in the cultural traditions of Judaism,” Lewinsky said, “but there have been periods of my life where my faith has been challenged.”
Lewinsky, who attended the Sinai Temple as a child in Los Angeles, said that after the Clinton story broke, “I was shunned from almost every community which I belonged to, including my religious community. That led to some very dark times for me.”
She recalled sitting in a hotel room one day in 1998 and thinking, repeatedly: “I want to die.”
“There were moments for me when it seemed like suicide was the only way to end the pain and the ridicule,” she said to the crowd.
Lewinsky said she has watched the emerging #MeToo movement with very mixed feelings. There is no question, she said, that when she was in the public eye, she was relentlessly attacked, with little public support.
“I don’t think I would have felt so isolated if what happened in 1998 happened in 2018,” she said. “By and large I had been alone. Publicly alone. Abandoned most by the main figure in this crisis, who knew me well and intimately.”
Today, she said, what happened to her would be called “cyber bulling, online harassment and slut shaming.”
Lewinsky said she was silent for many years, before she slowly morphed into a public activist against such bullying, harassment and abuse of power.
“I am in awe of the sheer courage and bravery of the women and men who have stood up and begun to confront the entrenched beliefs and institutions,” she said. “Part of what has allowed me to shift [into public life], is knowing I’m not alone anymore.”
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