Watch CBS News

Monica Lewinsky to champion cyberbullying victims

Calling herself "patient zero," Lewinsky says being at the center of a sex scandal turned her into a case study on cyberbullying
Monica Lewinsky aims to help victims of cyberbullying 03:00

The most famous White House intern in history is stepping back into the spotlight.

In a compelling and revealing speech, Monica Lewinsky proclaimed she now wants to help victims of cyberbullying.

She said she identifies with what those young people go through, because she was one of them.

"I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of a way," Lewinsky said at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia.

Monica Lewinsky said being at the center of a sex scandal turned her into a case study in cyberbullying, even before the rise of social media.

"I was patient zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet," she said.

As the details of her sexual activities appeared on the internet, Lewinsky said she was filled with a deep sense of shame, contemplating suicide at times.

"I would go online, read in a paper or see on TV, people referring to me as: tramp, slut, whore. Frankly, I came close to disintegrating," she recalled.

Her speech comes five months after she made similar revelations in an essay for Vanity Fair Magazine.

Taken together, they appear to be part of an orchestrated effort to reclaim her image.

"Her name is so associated with what happened between her and President Clinton, that it's going to be a real challenge to forge a different identity," New York Times national political reporter Amy Chozick said.

Lewinsky cited the story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide in 2010 after one of his intimate encounters was secretly streamed online by his roommate.

"My mother was unusually upset by the story and I wondered why," Lewinsky said. "Eventually it dawned on me: she was back in 1998, when I, too, might have been humiliated to death."

By sharing her own experience, she said she hopes to help other victims.

"Online, we've got a compassion deficit, an empathy crisis, and something tells me that matters a lot more to most of us," she said.

Before she gave her speech Monday, Lewinsky joined Twitter, describing herself as a "social activist" and "knitter of things without sleeves."

Her first tweet was a simple one:

She already has more than 50,000 followers.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.