Ken Starr: Treatment of Monica Lewinsky was an 'American tragedy' impossible after MeToo

The treatment of Monica Lewinsky during the Bill Clinton scandal was an "American tragedy" that would not be repeated in the wake of the #MeToo movement, according to the lawyer whose investigation into the ex-president thrust her into the limelight two decades ago.

Ken Starr suggested the “mean-spirited ways” in which the White House and the media sought to “demean” Ms Lewinsky when her affair with Mr Clinton was exposed “would be viewed now as unconscionable”.

Mr Clinton faced impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury in 1998 after evidence compiled by the lawyer showed the president had lied under oath about his relationship with the former White House intern.

Asked about Ms Lewinsky's treatment at the time, he told ABC News: “We live in a very different era, especially in terms of the way we treat human beings.

"The treatment that was afforded by the Clinton White House - and by the president himself - to women who had come into his orbit, into some kind of relationship with him ... to demean and to challenge and to attack them in these very mean-spirited ways was a part of, I think, the American tragedy that we experienced in the 1990s."

Mr Clinton was later acquitted in the Senate, while Ms Lewinsky’s name was dragged through the mud as the president’s team tried to discredit her story.

She was referred in media coverage as a “vixen”, “predatory” and a “little tart,” while Fox News ran a poll asking viewers if they thought she was an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills”.

Sidney Blumental, Mr Clinton’s senior adviser and friend, is suspected to have passed stories to the media the discredit the investigation. He also testified to a grand jury that Ms Lewinsky had been stalking the president.

"These were all total fabrication. Total lies," Mr Starr said.

The lawyer suggested the shifting culture and growing conversation around sexual harassment, consent, and abuse of power would mean a similar scandal would now be treated differently.

"I don't think that could happen again without there being a call to account," he said. "This kind of pattern of conduct, of the abuse of women, both verbally and otherwise, I think would be viewed now as unconscionable."

Mr Starr’s 1998 report on the scandal was criticised at the time for going into lurid detail about sexual encounters involving the president, who was also accused of sexually harassing a state employee while governor of Arkansas.

The lawyer said last year he saw "eerie echoes" of Mr Clinton's administration in the way Donald Trump's team has handled investigations into alleged collusion between his election campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump has also been accused of paying hush money to two women to cover up alleged affairs.