In a new Vanity Fair essay, Monica Lewinsky reflects on her scandal with former President Clinton 20 years ago, opening with a chance encounter in late 2017 that rattled her. While at a Manhattan restaurant, she ran into none other than Kenneth Starr, the special investigator who turned her into a household name in 1998. This, surprisingly, was the first time Lewinsky had ever met him, and she describes his demeanor as "somewhere between avuncular and creepy." He asked multiple times if she was "doing OK" and kept touching her arm and elbow, "which made me uncomfortable." Then Lewinsky told him, in what she later realized was an attempt to elicit an apology, “Though I wish I had made different choices back then, I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too." Starr didn't apologize, however. He merely said, "I know. It was unfortunate."
The anecdote precedes Lewinsky's revelation that she was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago, and she suggests the nation suffered a similar kind of trauma. "Both clinically and observationally, something fundamental changed in our society in 1998, and it is changing again as we enter the second year of the Trump presidency in a post-Cosby-Ailes-O’Reilly-Weinstein-Spacey-Whoever-Is-Next world," she writes. The nation lost its "capacity for mercy, measure, and perspective," and bitter partisan differences "settled in." Lewinsky adds that while she has previously described her relations with Clinton as consensual, she has come to realize that assessment is "complicated," given the "power imbalances" at play. She also reveals that a leader of the #MeToo movement expressed a sentiment in a private exchange that "undid" her: "I'm sorry you were so alone." (Read the full essay.)