Politics

Monica Lewinsky, Impeachment Commentator

She didn’t want anything to do with Trump’s impeachment. Then Ken Starr showed up.

Monica Lewinsky stands on a stage in front of a microphone, holding a Webby award.
Monica Lewinsky speaks at the Webby Awards on May 13 in New York City.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

If you had asked her a month ago, Monica Lewinsky would have been adamant: She wanted very much to be excluded from this narrative—the narrative of President Trump’s impeachment, that is.

“newsflash: you can talk about impeachment w/o tagging me. *curtsies*,” the former White House intern wrote on Twitter on Dec. 16. Back in November, she was asking the Chicago Tribune to please refrain from illustrating its impeachment coverage with photos of her. It’s apparently almost impossible to think of the concept of impeachment without landing on the last time a president was impeached, and thus, the affair that led to it, but Lewinsky was asking everyone to try.

Well, that was before last week’s announcement that Ken Starr would join President Trump’s impeachment defense team, at which point Lewinsky gave up on all that.

“this is definitely an ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ kinda day,” she posted that morning, commenting on the Starr déjà vu without referring explicitly to the man who led impeachment proceedings against Clinton—and published a detailed report where the entire country could read about a young woman’s sexual dalliances with the president. Since then, Lewinsky has offered a few other oblique thoughts on the impeachment trial, signaling a reluctant embrace of a role she was drafted for involuntarily: the impeachment commentator America didn’t know it needed.

Lewinsky’s inability to keep from weighing in on impeachment drama on Twitter is representative of a larger challenge of being Monica Lewinsky in 2020: She seems to want to both move on from the scandal that made her infamous, but also have the public re-examine that scandal and reckon with just how unfairly she was treated during it. (She’s now serving as a producer on the coming installment of American Crime Story based on the Clinton scandal.) She might be just as surprised as anyone to be finding all the ways the Trump impeachment has helped highlight those injustices.

In truth, recontextualizing her past has been a fruitful pursuit for Lewinsky, who has found success in recent years in transforming the public image the Clinton years imposed on her and carving out a role for herself as an anti-bullying advocate. Though this role may be more inextricable from her past, when she was cast as a ditzy temptress and the frequent butt of jokes, than she would like, a post-#MeToo climate more primed to recognize sexism and abuses of power has left her well-positioned for this work. And in between TED Talks and Vanity Fair articles, her Twitter account provides a natural platform for offering commentary on the news of the day, a place where she can easily switch between providing incisive commentary, retweeting her famous friends, and making light of her notoriety. Lewinsky may have wanted to sit this impeachment out, but it turns out it needed her, and thankfully she answered the call.