Mark Seliger exclusively for Vanity Fair
Why would Monica Lewinsky step back into the limelight?
It's the question millions of Americans have been asking since Tuesday, when excerpts from her Vanity Fair article were first published online. The former White House intern explained her reasoning in the piece, writing, "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." Lewinsky, 40, also hopes to combat cyber bullying. "Beyond the humiliation, shame hung around my neck," she wrote. "Every day I am recognized. Every day."
"Despite what some headlines will falsely report about this piece, this is not about Me versus the Clintons. Their lives have moved on...I wish them no ill," Lewinsky clarified. "And I fully understand that what has happened to me and the issue of my future do not matter to either of them."
Still, skepticism abounds. Lynne Cheney, who served as the Second Lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009, accused Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton of masterminding Lewinsky's return as Hillary eyes a potential presidential campaign in 2016. "I really wonder if this isn't an effort on the Clintons' part to get that story out of the way," Cheney said on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor Tuesday. "Would Vanity Fair publish anything about Monica Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton wouldn't want in Vanity Fair?" Guest host Laura Ingraham said Cheney's theory "makes perfect sense," adding, "I'm really mad I didn't think of it first."
Vanity Fair/Sam Jones
In excerpts obtained by NBC News, Lewinsky reflected on the affair, writing, "It was an authentic connection, with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged. In my early twenties, I was too young to understand the real-life consequences, and too young to see that I would be sacrificed for political expediency...I look back now, shake my head in disbelief, and wonder what was I—what were we—thinking?"
On Thursday's Today, The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus commented on Cheney's unproven assessment, saying, "Now, if there is a Hillary Clinton campaign for president in 2016, we can move on from the Lewinsky scandal of yore." MSNBC Now host Alex Wagner and political commentator Nicole Wallace also weighed in on what the article might mean for Hillary's possible presidential campaign.
"I feel like there's been a lot of Lewinsky in the air, whether it's Senator Rand Paul and his comments about Bill Clinton being a sexual predator," Wagner said. "I feel like there is constant Hillary talk that only is going to ramp up as we get closer to 2016, and this is a woman who feels like she's been sidelined and marginalized." Wallace echoed her sentiments, saying, "Political operatives are never quite as scheming as people give them credit for being. I think that what she writes is the truth. She's been waiting for a moment when the Clintons aren't on the national political stage and realizes that they will be on the national political stage for infinity, so if not now, then when?" She added, "This is not a good story for the Clintons and this is not a story that they can get over and get past. If voters decide they want to hear more about it, that will determine the arc of the story more than anything else."
"I disagree with that," Wagner countered. "I think Monica Lewinsky is an accepted truth about the Clintons, and this is a woman who spends a lot of time in that article trying to get past the trauma of her early twenties and move on and talk about the online harassment that plagues many young people today."
The Clintons, for their part, have yet to publicly comment on the Vanity Fair article.
(E!, Today and Now With Alex Wagner are all part of the NBCUniversal family.)