At a White House press conference on January 26, 1998, then-President Bill Clinton uttered what was to become one of his most infamous statements: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal first hit the news about a week prior, on January 17, although the controversial encounters between the two occurred between November 1995 and March 1997. Lewinsky stated nine explicit encounters took place over this span of time.
Scandals were not new to public figures or the realm of politics, but a scandal involving an individual as powerful and recognizable as a U.S. president led to a media firestorm. Much of the reporting at the time was fraught with sensationalism as well as outright bullying and misogyny directed towards Lewinsky. Clinton also faced significant criticism, of course, but the vitriol slung at Lewinsky was disproportionately severe in comparison and has far outlasted that which was faced by the then-president.
Despite the at times questionable news reports and comments, the scandal did, in fact, begin a national conversation on the topic that was refreshingly candid. Topics at the time included what actions included infidelity, what age differences were acceptable, and the nature of power imbalances in the workplace.
As of today, Bill Clinton has largely put the scandal behind him. Monica has continued to face a significant level of bullying and public harassment, particularly in the age of widespread social media use; nonetheless, she has also moved on from the controversy and now works as an anti-cyberbullying activist.