US former White House intern who became the centre of scandal in 1998 after President Bill Clinton eventually admitted having had an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with her, and the House of Representatives moved to impeach him. Lewinsky was a recent college graduate when she worked in 1995 as an unpaid White House intern. Her internship led to a paid position in the office of legislative affairs in December 1995, and in April 1996 she moved to the Pentagon as the confidential assistant to Kenneth Bacon, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. After news broke of her alleged involvement with the president in January 1988, she became the focus of worldwide media attention.
The scandal blew up as a result of the Paula Jones case, accusing Clinton of sexual harassment. Linda Tripp, a former White House secretary, announced in January 1998 that she had 20 hours of conversation on tape in which Lewinsky talked about her illicit affair with the president. President Clinton strongly denied that he had carried on an illicit affair with Lewinsky for 18 months and that he had urged her to cover it up by lying under oath to lawyers for Paula Jones. Lewinsky had been transferred to the Pentagon when senior White House officials noticed her clear infatuation with the president.
Attorney and judge Kenneth Starr, who had been investigating the Whitewater scandal, expanded his probe of questionable Clinton business transactions in the late 1980s to look into the Lewinsky scandal, and a grand jury began considering evidence. Eventually Lewinsky was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for detailed testimony of her liaisons with Clinton, who, in public and under oath, had denied any sexual relationship. Testifying to the grand jury, Lewinsky was prepared to testify that she and Clinton did have an affair which they agreed should be kept secret, but that she was never explicitly told to lie about it. She also provided telephone answering machine tapes that featured messages from the president.
President Clinton then admitted to having had a relationship with Lewinsky and of having misled people, including his wife, about it, and impeachment hearings followed. In only the second such impeachment vote in its history, the US Senate in February 1999 acquitted President Clinton of the two Articles of Impeachment against him – perjury and the obstruction of justice.
Lewinsky was born in San Francisco, California, and graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, in 1995. Considered an ambitious and friendly person by those who knew her, her involvement with President Clinton and her part in his impeachment trial made her the topic of endless news stories and conversations, as well as the butt of countless jokes. Her book, Monica's Story (1999), written by Andrew Morton, recounts her story.