MONICA LEWINSKY spoke publicly for the first time yesterday (Monday) about how she "fell in love" with Bill Clinton, describing the pain of being turned into a figure of global humiliation.
In a tearful address, Ms Lewinsky, now 41, said she wanted "to give purpose to my past" by campaigning against a toxic internet culture that relentlessly hounded individuals in the news.
She described herself as "the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet" and spoke about her part in the affair that nearly ended Mr Clinton's presidency.
"I fell in love with my boss," she told a summit organised by the business magazine Forbes. "Only, my boss was the President of the United States."
Ms Lewinsky was a 22-year-old intern at the White House when her affair with Mr Clinton began and only 25 when it exploded into the public view.
Lurid coverage of the sex scandal was fuelled by early incarnations of online gossip sites in what Ms Lewinsky called "a viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly 'social media'."
She said: "Staring at the computer screen, I spent the day shouting 'Oh my God' and 'I can't believe they put that in' or 'That's so out of context'. And those were the only thoughts that interrupted a relentless mantra in my head: I want to die," she said.
Ms Lewinsky said she planned to devote herself to changing the culture of an internet that routinely destroyed and humiliated people in the public eye.
She said she became committed to the cause after reading about Tyler Clementi, a gay American university student who killed himself in 2010 after his roommate secretly filmed him with a man and released the footage online.
Ms Lewinsky said his death reminded her of how she too was "periodically suicidal" as the world's media pursued her in 1998. "Having survived myself, what I was to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive," she said. "I want to put my suffering to use and give purpose to my past."
Ms Lewinsky has recently begun taking small steps back into public life. She joined Twitter on Monday morning, gaining 16,000 followers within hours of her first tweet.
Her reappearance is unwelcome news for Hillary Clinton, who is expected to launch a second bid for the White House early next year.
In May this year, Ms Lewinsky responded to a partial transcript of a late-1990s phone conversation in which Mrs Clinton called her a "narcissistic loony toon".
"Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband's mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman - not only me, but herself - troubling," Ms Lewinsky wrote.