American Crime Story season 3 tells the story of Monica Lewinsky and the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal, but what happened to Lewinsky after Clinton’s trial? In the ’90s, Monica Lewinsky became a household name following the Clinton scandal. She may still be best known for her involvement in the former president’s impeachment, but she’s accomplished far more in her life since.
Because of the nearly unprecedented media blitz surrounding the Clinton impeachment at the time, Lewinsky was subjected to extensive, unrelenting, and at times terribly invasive investigation by both cultural commentators and the public at large. American Crime Story: Impeachment star Beanie Feldstein, who plays Lewinsky in the show, has been vocal about her hope that the FX series will help to finally tell Lewinsky’s actual story, rather than the one-sided angles that have more frequently been shared in the years since the scandal. To that end, Lewinsky served as a producer on American Crime Story season 3.
Like any person caught up in media scandal, Lewinsky is far more than her unconsented moment in the spotlight. She’s played many roles and accomplished significant things in her life as an activist, advocate, and public figure. And while American Crime Story season 3 may end before many of those accomplishments take place, having a fuller impression of Lewinsky is important to better understand her larger story. Here’s what happened to Monica Lewinsky during and after the Clinton Impeachment.
In 1995, Lewinsky got an internship working in the White House, which turned into a permanent job after a few months. According to her later testimonies, her relationship with Clinton began in ’95 and continued into 1997, including what she said were nine sexual encounters within the Oval Office. After moving to a position at the Pentagon, Lewinsky confided her associations with the president to coworker Linda Tripp, who subsequently began recording their conversations in secret. The affair became public in 1998, after Tripp gave the recordings to Kenneth Starr – an independent investigator working on a separate Clinton scandal involving his real estate investments. The investigation broadened in scope, including elements of a past sexual misconduct case against Clinton and subsequently bringing in his relationship with Lewinsky. After the president denied any inappropriate association with Lewinsky on national television, she instantly became the target of a massive media blitz.
For weeks afterward, Lewinsky kept as low of a profile a possible, trying to avoid unwelcome media interrogations by staying with her mother. She later gave testimony to the Starr Commission and eventually before a grand jury, for which she was granted transactional immunity. There were no direct legal ramifications for Lewinsky after the conclusion of Clinton’s trial, but her public image and reputation were stained and largely taken out of her control for years after. And due to the immunity agreement she signed, Lewinsky was largely prohibited from speaking about her true experiences regarding the case.
The notoriety of the Clinton scandal made Lewinsky a household name, shooting her to a bizarre and nonconsensual celebrity status in America and even internationally. She helped author Andrew Morton write a biography of her side of the Clinton story, entitled Monica’s Story, and conducted a widely viewed interview with ABC in 1999. Lewinsky began selling her own line of handbags from The Real Monica, Inc. that same year – an interest she claimed to have picked after knitting extensively as a stress reliever during the impeachment process.
Starting in 2000, Lewinsky made a number of TV appearances, including as a spokesperson for diet brand Jenny Craig, a guest on MTV’s The Tom Green Show, and a correspondent for British TV network Channel 5. Many of these ventures, like her book deal and ABC interview, were undertaken to help pay off her extensive legal fees following the scandal. The TV appearances continued through 2004, with Lewinsky’s immunity agreement eventually wearing off and allowing her to speak more candidly about her experience. Eventually, however, the persistence of her slanted public image convinced Lewinsky to step out of the spotlight. She ended her handbag business, moved to England, and began studying social psychology at the London School of Economics, eventually earning her master’s degree. After graduation, Lewinsky continued to avoid the public spotlight for more than a decade.
In 2014, Lewinsky began reentering the public sphere, writing about her experiences as contributor for Vanity Fair and once again making occasional TV appearances. Her primary public work since has been in the field of cyberbullying activism. Lewinsky has spoken extensively about her difficulty navigating one of the first major cases of online harassment and shaming. In 2015, she did significant work speaking out against cyberbullying in all of its forms, delivering a high-profile TED talk about improving compassion and communication on the internet, and later becoming an ambassador and strategic advisor for Bystander Revolution – a major anti-bullying organization. She has continued to speak about her relationship with Clinton from time to time, usually through the lens of the terrible scrutiny and media attacks she was subjected to.
Now, Lewinsky is serving as a producer on American Crime Story season 3, which will retell the most famous and infamous chapter of life with what looks to be more nuance and compassion than she received in any forum at the time. In 2021, Lewinsky signed a first-look deal with 20th Television for her own production company, Alt Ending Productions. Expectations around Impeachment are relatively high, given the critical successes of American Crime Story: The People vs. O. J. Simpson and American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. And with a fantastic cast and much of the same creative team leading the charge, season 3 will hopefully be just as good. With American Crime Story: Impeachment, Lewinsky may finally have a chance to properly help share her side of the Clinton scandal.