On last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver devoted a segment to the issues of public shaming, during which he brought up Monica Lewinsky, whom he called “the best example” of a situation where the punishment of public shaming overshadows the original “offense.”
Lewinsky, even 20 years after the Bill Clinton scandal, is still being publicly shamed, and as Oliver pointed out, was the subject of “endless” cruel jokes immediately after the scandal made news. For his part, Oliver owned up to the part he played in those jokes.
“Look, my hands are not clean here, either,” he said. “I wasn’t in the U.S. at the time, but ten years after the fact, I was in a Daily Show piece marking the tenth anniversary of the scandal above a graphic reading, ‘10 Sucking Years,’ which is gross. It’s gross.”
He also pointed out that while plenty of comedians have expressed regret over their Lewinsky jokes, Jay Leno, who was among the most relentless, has not apologized — which Oliver said seems extra rich, considering that Leno commented on late-night TV last week to say that he’d “like to see a bit of civility come back.”
“You know, like that time that he did a bit with a fake book about Lewinsky titled The Slut in the Hat,” Oliver said. “And if that’s what he means by ‘civility,’ may I offer my new book Oh, the Places You Can Go Fuck Yourself, Jay Leno!”
Oliver also sat down with Lewinsky in the segment for an interview, in which she discussed her experience with becoming what she called “patient zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale.”
Lewinsky, who is now an advocate for anti-bullying, told Oliver that while it was probably a good thing that Twitter wasn’t around during the time of the Clinton scandal, it also might have helped her to feel less alone.
“One of the things that happens with these kinds of experiences is that you start to disappear, you start to feel like you don’t matter. And I think that when somebody sees you and just acknowledges your humanity in the smallest way, it really can make a world of a difference,” she told Oliver. And you don’t know — it could help save someone’s life.”