Nearly 20 years after her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton made headlines, Monica Lewinsky is having her #MeToo moment — and it involves an “uncomfortable” meeting with “creepy” Ken Starr.
In an essay in “Vanity Fair” published online on Monday, Lewinsky, now 44, writes how the current movement to empower women who have been harassed or assaulted has affected her — and details the first time she met Ken Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation of Whitewater and Lewinsky resulted in Clinton’s 1998 impeachment.
It occurred in December 2017 when she bumped into him at a New York City restaurant, she writes — and Lewinsky said Starr greeted her by “touching my arm and elbow, which made me uncomfortable.”
“This was the man who had turned my 24-year-old life into a living hell in his effort to investigate and prosecute President Bill Clinton on charges that would eventually include obstruction of justice and lying under oath — lying about having maintained a long-term extramarital relationship with me,” Lewinsky wrote.
Lewinsky wrote that Starr asked her “several times” during their encounter in December if she was “doing OK” and described his demeanor as “somewhere between avuncular and creepy.”
Monica Lewinsky speaks out on MeToo movement, Clinton scandal
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She nevertheless worked up the courage to confront him about how his actions affected her.
“Though I wish I had made different choices back then,” she told him, according to her essay, “I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too.”
“In hindsight, I later realized, I was paving the way for him to apologize. But he didn’t,” she wrote. “He merely said, with the same inscrutable smile: ‘I know. It was unfortunate.'”
But Lewinsky — who has become an anti-bullying advocate in recent years, penning a series of essays about her ordeal — also explained how the current #MeToo movement of women coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, politics, finance and media has helped to embolden a new generation of women to come forward with their own stories.
“I — we — owe a huge debt of gratitude to the #MeToo and Time’s Up heroines,” she wrote. “They are speaking volumes against the pernicious conspiracies of silence that have long protected powerful men when it comes to sexual assault, sexual harassment and abuse of power.”
But Lewinsky also examined the meaning of “consent,” especially when “power imbalances” — like the one that existed between her and Clinton — present the opportunity for abuse.
“I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she wrote. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances — and the ability to abuse them — do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)”
“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,” Lewinsky wrote. “He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college.”