Have the media grown up half as much as Monica Lewinsky?
From the looks of it, Lewinsky, now 40, has learned something from the humiliating fallout of the amour fou she had at 22. Unlike most of the stupid things people do at that age, her stupid thing led to the impeachment of a president and made her name into a national punch line for the last sixteen years. “Now,” she writes in an essay for Vanity Fair, “I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past.”
CNN New Day co-host Chris Cuomo said last week that if “Monicagate” had occurred today, the press wouldn’t overreact as it did in the 1990s. After all, media attitudes have changed in the last generation. Outside of Fox and some stragglers, the corporate media officially love gay marriage and hate bullying; some MSMers are aware of this thing called “slut-shaming”; and, hey, we have social media, where bullies themselves can be shamed and then tweeted away into the ether. Because Bill Clinton himself survived the scandal, you could conceivably argue that the media sniggered past its adolescence and learned to treat at least some sex scandals (Mark Sanford, David Vitter) with a sense of proportion.
But evidence of a mature media response to Lewinsky is pretty thin. There are plenty of understanding pieces online, of course, like Emily Shire’s “Stop Slut Slamming Monica Lewinsky!” or Mel Robbins’s “Stop judging Monica Lewinsky.” But much of the mainstream media are still writing on the bathroom stall.
The New York Post, for instance, put Lewinsky on its cover last week with the headline, “MY LIFE SUCKS!” Inside, columnist Andrea Peyser was at her ugliest best, making sure you knew it was middle-school pun intended.
She’s America’s favorite beret-wearing former intern, whose very name has become a synonym for a sex act she eagerly performed on her knees, a dame who rocketed to fame for failing to dry-clean a blue dress stained with the seed of the then-leader of the free world.