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Monica Lewinsky and Media Abuse

By now the affair that got Bill Clinton impeached is well-known.

In the late ‘90’s, news of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky broke in the media over a period of months and then years. Before there were any social networks, public interest in the story was flamed by websites like the Drudge Report that delighted in leaking the most intimate details of the story – and of Lewinsky’s personal life.

Lewinsky became the first person to have her reputation destroyed online; and unfortunately, she was not the last to be driven to depression and and the brink of suicide by her public humiliation.

Yesterday morning, Lewinsky spoke to the public for the first time in over a decade, at the Forbes “30 Under 30 Summit,” sharing her experiences to call attention to the “empathy crisis” she sees in our digital lives.

Here is a report about her speech on Philly.com and here’s the full transcript of her speech from Forbes.

I have several reactions to Miss Lewinsky’s public remarks.

  1. The public has a right to know – in fact, we must know – if our president is dishonorable. If the president abuses his power and preys on vulnerable women then he is unfit for office.
  2. Nonetheless, the way of exposing him should never expose a victim to public shame and humiliation.
  3. Life insurance underwriting should be conducted in a similarly sensitive fashion.

Many victims of abuse and bullying develop problems in life that become underwriting challenges. Substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, depression, and other maladies envelop their lives. Many of these people have truly heroic stories to tell of overcoming very serious problems and getting their lives back on track.

Everybody involved in the purchase of a policy, from the broker to the underwriter to the office staff, should give the applicant nothing but the highest level of respect and courtesy.

As Monica put it in her speech:

Oscar Wilde wrote: “I have said that behind sorrow there is always sorrow. It were wiser still to say that behind sorrow there is always a soul.  And to mock at a soul in pain is a dreadful thing.”