Monica Lewinsky has apologized for her affair with Bill Clinton. She apologized to Hillary Clinton in a 1999 interview with Barbara Walters, just a year after Bill Clinton's impeachment. She apologized to Chelsea Clinton during that same interview. But Lewinsky says she still hasn't received an apology from Bill Clinton—and she thinks he ought to extend one.
In a Tuesday column for Vanity Fair, Lewinsky says Bill Clinton should apologize for his role in their affair not because she is "owed or deserving of a personal apology," but because he should want to.
"…Bill Clinton should want to apologize," Lewinsky wrote. "I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it . . . and we, in turn, a better society."
Recently, Bill Clinton has had ample opportunity to make amends for his involvement with Lewinsky, who was just 22 years old when they began a sexual relationship during his first term as president. Earlier this year, Bill Clinton embarked on a press tour for his newly released novel, The President Is Missing, a thriller he cowrote with author James Patterson. Though to some it might seem natural—especially in the #MeToo era—that Bill Clinton would face renewed questioning over the scandal, the former president seemed blindsided by it.
In a June interview with NBC's Craig Melvin, Bill Clinton appeared angry and defensive over inquiries into whether he would have resigned if his affair with Lewinsky had occurred in 2018.
"I don’t think it would be an issue because people would be using the facts instead of the imagined facts,” Bill Clinton told Melvin. “If the facts were the same today, I wouldn’t [resign].” He then went on to accuse Melvin of ignoring "gaping facts" about how the affair and subsequent fallout transpired, retorting, "…and I bet you don't know them."
During the same interview, Bill Clinton said he hadn't apologized to Lewinsky and didn't think he needed to.
"I apologized to everybody in the world," Bill Clinton said.
"But you didn't apologize to her," Melvin confirmed.
"I have not talked to her."
"Do you feel like you owe her an apology?"
"No, I do—I do not," Bill Clinton replied, adding: "I've never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry. That's very different. The apology was public."
Bill Clinton later clarified his comments, saying Melvin's line of questioning got him "hot under the collar" and reiterated that he had apologized to his family, the American people, and Lewinsky publicly at the time the affair came to light. But embedded in these responses, Lewinsky says, are the signs of remarkable power and privilege.
"If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn't want to answer," Lewinsky wrote on Tuesday.
Lewinsky, for whom questions from media and press about her erstwhile affair with Clinton are typically considered off-limits, is uncharacteristically participating in a new docuseries called The Clinton Affair. Lewinsky says that while she "agonized" over her decision to take part in the documentary, its production forced her to face vestiges of grief and shame she'd left unexplored.
"Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful," Lewinsky wrote. "But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life—a time in our history—I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again."