Longtime wowlebrity and anti-cyberbullying advocate Monica Lewinsky writes movingly of her experiences with FOX news in the wake of former former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes death, remembering him the man who built a media empire on the back of her affair with former President Bill Clinton. She also notes, quite correctly, that our whole “culture of humiliation” – of cyberbullying and chyrons, trolls and tweets – was forged on FOX news in 1998, during her very public takedown.
She writes in the New York Times:
“This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes, who died last week a year after being ousted at Fox News. It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally.”
“Just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Mr. Ailes to head the new cable news network, my relationship with President Bill Clinton became public. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.
“It worked like magic: The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists. For the past 15 years, Fox News has been the No. 1 news station; last year the network made about $2.3 billion.
“Some experts have noted that viewers found Fox for the first time because of the crisis. John Moody, a Fox executive editor, reflected on that period: “The Lewinsky saga put us on the news map.” As he put it in another interview: “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”
“Their dream was my nightmare. My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly. Truth and fiction mixed at random in the service of higher ratings. My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail — I was the original target of Kenneth Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit and other alleged crimes — or worse, me taking my own life. Meantime, Mr. Ailes huddled with his employees at Fox News, dictating a lineup of talking heads to best exploit this personal and national tragedy.
“For myriad reasons — information gathering, boredom (I couldn’t leave my home without being trailed by paparazzi) and a touch of masochism — I watched the news around the clock. On Fox, it seemed, no rumor was too unsubstantiated, no innuendo too vile and no accusation too abhorrent.
“Just as television news was devolving into a modern coliseum, the internet came along and compounded this culture of shame and vitriol. Remember: The story of my affair was not broken by The Washington Post, The New York Times or the networks, but online by the Drudge Report. The comments on television and online were excruciating. I ceased being a three-dimensional person. Instead I became a whore, a bimbo, a slut and worse. Just days after the story broke, Fox asked its viewers to vote on this pressing question: Is Monica Lewinsky an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills”?
Read the whole piece here. It’s absolutely fascinating, and renews our respect for this dynamic, compelling, and gifted woman. One
(Photo: Pacific Coast News)