Thursday, October 18, 2018
Politics

Monica Lewinsky comes to Tampa on Monday to talk #MeToo, media scrutiny

TAMPA — Monica Lewinsky, an anti-bullying social activist best remembered as the White House intern whose affair nearly brought down a presidency, will be in Tampa on Monday to deliver the keynote address at the 17th annual Franci Golman Rudolph Schaarai Zedek Sisterhood Star Event.

Lewinsky’s talk will largely focus on her life after the 1990s affair with then-President Bill Clinton that made her famous, event chairwoman Faith Alexander said.

Topics will range from this year’s "Me Too" and "Time’s Up" movements to Lewinsky’s internet-based advocacy work, including her latest anti-bullying video campaign, dubbed "#DefyTheName,"

"At the Star Event, Monica plans to address such societal issues as survival, resilience, digital reputation, and equality, all issues being confronted today by women in the ‘Me Too’ movement," Alexander said in a statement.

The fundraiser benefits the group’s social services efforts.

Lewinsky’s "#DefyTheName" campaign takes aim at name-calling by challenging followers to share the names they’ve been called by bullies on their own social media pages for October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s the latest in a string of public service announcements she has created with the nonprofit group Bystander Revolution.

Celebrities who have joined in the effort include actor Alan Cumming, bully name "Useless;" comedian Sarah Silverman, "The Weirdo," and Questlove of the musical group the Roots, "superdweeb."

Lewinsky noted on her Twitter page that she has been called "Chunky," "Slut," "Stalker," and "That Woman."

It was the last jab, taken from Clinton’s infamous denial of their affair in 1998, that cemented Lewinsky in pop culture and political history when she was 22 years old.

Clinton later admitted to the affair and was impeached for committing perjury when he was asked about his relationship with Lewinsky during a federal hearing on his finances. The Senate did not convict him. But Lewinsky’s infamy has lasted long after the Clinton presidency, she has said, and nearly damaged her image, career and mental health beyond repair.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Lewinsky embarked on ill-fated business ventures, including a line of women’s handbags branded "The Real Monica," stints as a television personality, and a turn as spokeswoman for diet company Jenny Craig. Mounting public scrutiny drove Lewinsky to abandon those efforts in 2005 and move to London, where she earned her master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics.

Lewinsky wouldn’t publicly address the affair until 2014, when she published an essay titled "Shame and Survival" in Vanity Fair.

The piece allowed her to return to public life as an ambassador for multiple nonprofit organizations, but now she rarely addresses Clinton in lectures or interviews. Last month Lewinsky made headlines for walking out of a live TV interview in Jerusalem when an Israeli news anchor asked an "off limits" question about the affair. In a statement on her Twitter page, Lewinsky said the reporter violated an agreement to keep the 15-minute conversation about "the perils and positives of the Internet … not a news interview."

Organizers for Monday’s event declined a Tampa Bay Times reporter’s request to cover Lewinsky’s speech, saying the terms of her speaker agreement require all comments to be off the record. That means no photos, video or audio recording will be allowed, and cellphone use is also prohibited, organizers said in a statement to the Times.

Still, Lewinsky’s efforts to separate herself from a decades-old scandal echo throughout her social media campaigns and public service announcements against bullying. Her public service announcements and online videos end with a simple written message she calls the "core message" of her new career:

"Don’t let bullying define you."

Monday’s event begins with a 10 a.m. social hour, which is followed by the program and lunch at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd.

Tickets for the event start at $118. For availability, check zedek.org/starevent.

Lewinsky will also attend a private "Mingle with Monica" Patron Party the night before the luncheon for those willing to purchase an event "sponsorship," which ranges from $360 to $10,000. Those packages include a "photo opportunity," the website says.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

Correction: President Bill Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice but was not convicted by the Senate. An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the impeachment outcome.

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