NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Monica Lewinsky says she was “patient zero” in a cyberbullying epidemic that has since been blamed for teen suicides and celebrity exploitation.
The 41-year-old Lewinsky on Monday called for a cultural revolution to stem the “compassion deficit” fueling online hostility.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, the most famous intern in American history broke a decade-long public silence to 1,000 young entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.
The former White House intern spoke in Philadelphia at Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 Summit. She says she was inspired to act after the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student whose roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man.
Lewinsky says in 1998 she was the “first person to have their reputation destroyed” online amid revelations of her sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton. She sees her public portrayal as a form of “identity theft.”
“Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was Patient Zero. The first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet,” she said.
Lewinsky said her affair with Clinton started in 1995 and lasted on and off for two years.
“Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college … I fell in love with my boss,” the infamous former White House staffer told a business conference Monday during an eye-opening speech about her devastating experience in the public eye following the revelation of her affair with Clinton — her first public address in 13 years.
“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then,” she said. “But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites replete with comment sections and emails which could be forwarded. Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial up. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly ‘social media’.”
Lewinsky said that she has since taken up the cause against cyberbullying and summed up her last 16 years in one word.
“Shame. My own personal shame. Shame that befell my family, and shame that befell my country, our country,” she said.
Lewinsky also took up the issue earlier this year in an essay in Vanity Fair magazine.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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