- Some liberals are calling for a reckoning with the Democratic Party’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct and rape made against former President Bill Clinton.
- This comes as a national spotlight is shining on sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment following the bombshell allegations against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
With a national spotlight shining on sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment following the bombshell allegations against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Democrats and others on the left are beginning to reexamine their response to sexual assault and misconduct allegations against former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton, whose affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky nearly forced him from the presidency, had also been accused by three women — Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones — of sexual harassment or assault.
But the allegations, which include rape, were largely dismissed by Democrats, who benefited from the moral authority of prominent feminists who sided with Clinton, including Gloria Steinem, who minimized the president’s misdeeds in a 1998 New York Times op-ed, calling them “gross, dumb, and reckless” passes at women.
Liberal thinkers call for a ‘reckoning’ with Clinton’s alleged abuses
Prominent liberal commentators, including MSNBC host Chris Hayes and writer Michelle Goldberg, are now arguing that the allegations against Clinton deserved more scrutiny from Democrats.
“As gross and cynical and hypocritical [sic] as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is, it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him,” Hayes tweeted last week.
Goldberg argued that in order for the Democratic Party to hold on to its title as the party of feminism and civil rights, it needs to reckon with how it excused Clinton’s behaviour.
“The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton,” Goldberg wrote in The New York Times. “The party was on the wrong side of history, and there are consequences for that … If Weinstein and Mark Halperin and Louis C.K. and all the rest can be held accountable, so can our former president and so can his party, which so many Americans so desperately need to rise again.”
Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder of the left-leaning news site Vox, argued in a Wednesday column that Clinton’s consensual affair with Lewinsky, which he described as an abuse of power, should have been enough to force the president to resign.
“The wrongdoing at issue was never just a private matter for the Clinton family; it was a high-profile exemplar of a widespread social problem: men’s abuse of workplace power for sexual gain,” Yglesias wrote. “That alone should have been enough to have pressured Clinton out of office.”
Caitlin Flanagan, a writer and social critic, argued in a Monday piece in The Atlantic that “machine feminism” will no longer protect liberal men like Weinstein and Clinton because the left has — or should have — increasingly little tolerance for these kinds of abuses.
“The widespread liberal response to the sex-crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behaviour of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms,” Flanagan wrote.
“But the mood of the country has changed. We are in a time when old monuments are coming down and men are losing their careers over things they did to women a long time ago.”
The allegations against Clinton
Juanita Broaddrick has made the most serious allegations against Clinton, accusing him of raping her in 1978 while Clinton was Arkansas’ Attorney General.
Broaddrick, then a 35-year-old nursing home administrator, met Clinton while he was attorney general of Arkansas and visited the nursing home at which she worked.
On another occasion after his visit to the nursing home, she planned to meet with him at a coffee shop in the hotel where she was staying while attending a nursing seminar in Little Rock.
Clinton asked to meet in her hotel room instead and after he arrived, and allegedly proceeded to violently rape her.
“There was no remorse,” Broaddrick told BuzzFeed News last year. “He acted like it was an everyday occurrence. He was not the least bit apologetic. It was just unreal.”
A friend of Broaddrick’s said she found her and corroborated her story. Several others said Broaddrick told them about the rape at the time.
Kathleen Willey alleged that Clinton kissed her, fondled her breasts, and forced her to touch his crotch during a meeting in the Oval Office in 1993, while Willey was a volunteer in the White House correspondence office.
Willey made her allegations public in 1998 and Clinton “emphatically” denied that the interaction was sexual, arguing that he hugged Willey and may have kissed her on the forehead.
Former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones alleged that in 1991 she was escorted to Clinton’s hotel room in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the then-governor propositioned her for sex and exposed his genitals to her. Jones made her allegations public in 1994 and sued Clinton for sexual harassment. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 1998, on the grounds that Jones didn’t prove harm, and Jones appealed it.
Clinton ultimately paid Jones $US850,000 as part of an out-of-court settlement agreement, but did not admit guilt or apologise to Jones.
Clinton’s accusers supported Donald Trump in 2016
Broaddrick, Willey, and Jones all re-entered the national political conversation when they appeared at a press conference with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in October 2016.
The women, who also attended a debate between Hillary Clinton and Trump, all said they supported Trump’s candidacy and accused Hillary of being complicit in her husband’s abuses.
Brushing aside allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, as well as the recently released “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women, Broaddrick argued that Hillary’s complicity with her husband’s alleged crimes should disqualify her from the presidency.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Broaddrick, who alleges that Hillary attempted to “silence” her by thanking her for her support at a 1978 campaign rally, said at the news conference. “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me.”
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