As 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky arrived at the White House in the summer of 1995, she peered up at the imposing building, a mixture of excitement and nerves coursing through her veins.
With the help of a family connection, she had wrangled an unpaid internship at the Chief of Staff Leon Panette’s office, and it was a dream come true for the psychology graduate.
Lewinsky never could have imagined she’d end up embroiled in a national scandal, embarking on an elicit affair with one of the most powerful men in the world and becoming a punchline for the rest of her life.
Her fling with Bill Clinton, who was 27 years her senior, would lead to his impeachment and Lewinsky’s decades of hell battling online bullying and those who tried to shame her.
Clinton, who was and is still married to 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, testified under oath that he had not had a relationship with Monica during an investigation into his improper behaviour – but later admitted live on television that he had lied.
Lewinsky had told her co-worker Linda Tripp about her relationship with Clinton, and Tripp began secretly recording their telephone conversations.
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Other members of staff had already raised concerns about how much time Lewinsky was spending with Clinton and claimed she was being given special treatment.
But the smoking gun was a blue Gap dress Lewinsky told Tripp about, admitting it bore an unsavoury stain that would prove she and the president were intimate.
Lewinsky later confessed she had attended a Thanksgiving dinner wearing the (unwashed) dress, and no one seemed to notice the stain.
“I went to dinner that night. None of these people said to me, ‘Hey, you’ve go to go to the bathroom, you’ve got stuff all over your dress,'” she said.
Clinton was said to have lavished Lewinsky with thoughtful gifts including a hat pin and a book he thought she’d love. On the night in question, he headed into a room with her and his secretary Betty Currie, who then departed, having helped achieve the illusion that Clinton and Lewinsky were not alone together.
“We moved to the bathroom and were more intimate,” explained Lewinsky.
“There was some attention paid on me and then I was reciprocating, where up until that point he had always stopped before completion on his part.
“I sort of stood up and said I wanted to move past that stage and so he finally said okay.”
Monica didn’t notice her dress had been soiled, and hugged the President goodbye before heading off.
The garment was eventually examined as part of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s professional conduct, and indeed proved he had lied when he denied “sexual relations” with his intern, perjuring himself.
Clinton’s affair led to him becoming only the second president to ever be impeached.
He was charged with perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice after he denied having sex with Lewinsky.
Following a five-week trial, he was acquitted on both counts in February 1999, and went on to finish off his second term as president before embarking on an incredibly lucrative career giving speeches.
Getty Images for NARAS)
Meanwhile, Lewinsky went on become a TV personality, designing a handbag line and promoting a diet plan before dropping out of the spotlight to pursue a Master’s degree in psychology in London.
She has since become social activist who speaks out against cyberbullying after spending years being hassled about the affair, which she now realises was a “gross abuse of power”.
Lewinsky revealed in an article for Vanity Fair that she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the ordeal, having been “publicly outed and ostracised”.
She maintains the relationship was consensual, but said she had “limited understanding of the consequences” at the time.
“The dictionary definition of ‘consent’? To give permission for something to happen,” she wrote.
“And yet what did the ‘something’ mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age? He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better.”
She had also previously written in 2014 that had been “made a scapegoat in order to protect [Clinton’s] powerful position”.
She added: “My trauma expedition has been long, arduous, painful, and expensive. And it’s not over.”
Lewinsky said she had been “so alone” and felt isolated during the scandal.
“And yet I don’t believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today,” she wrote.
“There are even some people who feel my White House experiences don’t have a place in [the #MeToo movement], as what transpired between Bill Clinton and myself was not sexual assault, although we now recognise that it constituted a gross abuse of power.”
Clinton would later claim the his affair was his way to “manage his anxieties” during a stressful time as president.
“You feel like you’re staggering around, you’ve been in a 15 round prize fight that was extended to 30 rounds and here’s something that will take your mind off it for a while, that’s what happens,” he said on the Hulu documentary ‘Hillary’.
“We all bring baggage to life, and sometimes we do things we shouldn’t do and it was awful what I did.
“Everybody’s life has pressures and disappointments, terrors, fears of whatever. Things I did to manage my anxieties for years. I’m a different, totally different person than I was, a lot of that stuff 20 years ago.
“Nobody sits down and thinks, ‘I think I’ll take a really irresponsible risk, it’s bad for my family, bad for my country, bad for the people who work with me.'”
Discussing Bill’s former mistress, Hillary admitted: “I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky’s life was defined by it, unfairly I think.
“Over the years, I’ve watched her trying to get a normal life back again, but you’ve got to decide how to define normal.”
Recalling the moment he confessed to his wife, Bill said: “I went and sat on the bed and talked to her. I told her exactly what happened, when it happened. I said I feel terrible about it.
“She said you have to tell your daughter. She said that’s worse than me. So I did that, which was awful.”
Hillary added: “I was just devastated. I could not believe it. I was so personally just hurt, and I can’t believe this, I can’t believe you lied.
“We saw a counsellor… painful, painful discussions,” added the 74-year-old.
The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal is depicted in new BBC drama Impeachment: American Crime Story, which airs on Tuesday evening at 9:15pm.
It stars Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky, Clive Owen as Clinton, and Sarah Paulson as Tripp – while Lewinsky herself is one of the producers.
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