Exactly 20 years on, ‘the Monica Lewinsky scandal’ needs a new name.

Video by The Miller Centre of Public Affairs

Twenty-three years ago, a brown-haired, bright-eyed 21-year-old by the name of Monica Lewinsky walked through the doors and into the corridors of one of the most powerful buildings in the world.

It was July 1995 and she had just begun a summer internship in the office of White House chief of staff Leon Panetta. Lewinsky had just completed her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and, with the quiet help of a family friend, had managed to secure an internship just metres from President Bill Clinton.

By November, that internship had paved the way for a paid position which, in turn, paved its own way to one of the most infamous affairs in recent history.

Over the coming months, as we now know, the two engaged in a relationship that demolished the reputation of one, while the other managed to outlast the chaos, the backlash and the bullying.

Monica Lewinsky’s future was all but ruined. Bill Clinton’s was just fine.

In January 1998, 20 years ago to the week, the affair between Lewinsky and Clinton was made public, leading to the President’s now-famous denial.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” he said in a nationally televised White House news conference.

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Of course, he did. But it took more than seven months for him to formally and publicly admit that.

On August 17, 1998, despite earlier denials, Clinton said he “did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.”

“In fact,” Clinton conceded, “it was wrong,” and it “constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”

In the ferocious fight that was the White House publicity train steam-rolling the narrative that followed, the scandal quickly became known as the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

It was her name, not his, that became the international connotation for forbidden sex, infidelity and poor decisions.

Image: Getty.

She touched on as much in a 2014 piece for Vanity Fair, 10 years after deliberately retreating from the spotlight.

"Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any “abuse” came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position."

Some 20 years on, and in a period of reckoning post-Weinstein, we're beginning to learn the overlap between sex and power is messy and supremely damaging.

Bill Clinton, the most influential figure in the entire world, held intense social and professional power over a much younger, much less powerful woman.

The relationship was consensual, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was made of equal parties.

And for that reason, some 20 years later, 'the Monica Lewsinky scandal' shouldn't be known as 'the Monica Lewinsky scandal' anymore.

It is, and always should have been known as, 'the Bill Clinton scandal'.

Listen: Does Bill Clinton get a pass in the age of Weinstein?

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