Five days after the death of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, Monica Lewinsky has penned a non-obituary about the late media scion and how he profited off of her humiliation for the New York Times.
"This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes, who died last week 10 months after being ousted at Fox News," she wrote. "It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally."
Lewinsky has spoken out in recent years about harassment and cyberbullying in particular, using her famous story as an example of how picking apart someone's life online has real life consequences for the target. In her op-ed, Lewinsky argues that this culture of bullying, now so familiar to us both online and off, began with her and Ailes.
"Our world — of cyberbullying and chyrons, trolls and tweets — was forged in 1998," she wrote. "It is, as the historian Nicolaus Mills has put it, a 'culture of humiliation,' in which those who prey on the vulnerable in the service of clicks and ratings are handsomely rewarded."
Lewinsky wrote about how two years after Ailes took over at Fox, the story of her affair with then president Clinton broke, resulting in a scandal that was a huge ratings boon to fledgling gossip sites (like the Drudge Report, which first reported the story), and cable networks like Fox and NBC that were just getting accustomed to the 24-hour news cycle we all now live in.
Lewinsky notes that many viewers were first drawn to Fox because of her story, quoting Fox executive editor John Moody as saying, "The Lewinsky saga put us on the news map," and "Monica was a news channel's dream come true."
"Their dream was my nightmare," Lewinsky says, and recalls how a few days after the scandal broke, Fox posed a "pressing question" for its viewers to vote on: "Is Monica Lewinsky an 'average girl' or a 'young tramp looking for thrills?'"
"On Fox, it seemed, no rumor was too unsubstantiated, no innuendo too vile and no accusation too abhorrent," she wrote, before noting that, "The irony of Mr. Ailes's career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention."
Though Lewinsky expresses some hope for the future of Fox, conservative news, and the media in general, her feelings towards Ailes and his legacy are crystal clear.
"Farewell to the age of Ailes," she wrote. "The late Fox chief pledged Americans fair and balanced news. Maybe now we'll get it."