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The HBO Lewinsky - January 21, 2002

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

It's been four years since we first heard of her. Now Monica Lewinsky is back, but this time in a little more dignified position. She's promoting an upcoming HBO documentary called "Monica in Black and White."

HBO plans to run its debatable contribution to American culture in March. According to the cable channel's press releases, the docudrama mainly features Monica taking questions from college students and staff members of HBO.

If the answers Monica gave recently to press reporters at the Pasadena Ritz-Carlton Hotel are any indication, the show won't exactly be a required watch.

Greg Braxton, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, reports of a question that should have been posed to Lewinsky four years ago. Apparently a member of the press asked, "If a professor had consensual sex with a student, he would be out of there in a New York minute. If a cop stopped someone and they had consensual sex, he would be fired on the spot. Why do you think we did not hold our president to the same moral standard of others?"

The inquiry was pointed, intelligent and long overdue. It also completely threw Monica. Reports indicate that she began dabbing at her eyes. The New York Post said she nearly broke down in tears.

It seems reporters hit a nerve when they discussed how late-night humor had basically skewered her. According to the New York Post, Monica was bothered by "the ones that take my last name and equate [it] to [a sex act] that a lot of people in the world do ..."

There's a lesson here for Monica, and it's one that many people who have been thrust into the public eye have had to learn. Actions have consequences. And when the actions are stupid, the consequences can be dire.

Monica now designs handbags, attends Columbia University and seems to have little time these days for any deep thinking or advice-seeking. If she engaged in either, she'd have known to keep relatively quiet, stay out of the public eye and draw as little attention to herself as possible.

So why is it that Monica appears to be gravitating toward the spotlight by getting involved in this HBO documentary? She says she's worried that other people will make documentaries that perpetuate misconceptions.

Misconceptions, says Monica, "that I sought this celebrity by seducing the president and going to the White House with an agenda and turning on him so all of this could happen, so I could enjoy it and cause trouble for this country and make millions of dollars and perpetuate my celebrity."

And, adds Monica, "that I'm stupid."

With that said, some might wonder where the misconceptions are. At this point, it seems rather obvious that the young woman whose name is most closely associated with the impeachment of a president is trying to engage in the same activity as that of her former phone partner: rewriting history.

Maybe Monica should take a hint from others who have had to deal with image problems. Leave the old ways behind and do something positive.

But trying to deny truth or manufacture legacy accomplishes neither. Although "Monica in Blue" might be a more fitting documentary, in America everyone has a chance to change.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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