- Jim Young/Reuters
- Some liberals are calling for a reckoning with the Democratic Party’s response o 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 behavior.
“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 behavior 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
- Handout/Getty Images
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 when he visited her nursing home on a campaign stop. After Clinton asked to meet with her on her next trip to Little Rock, the two set up a meeting in a hotel coffee shop.
When Clinton arrived at the hotel, he asked to meet in Broaddrick’s room instead and after he arrived, allegedly proceeded to violently rape her. Broaddrick alleges he bloodied her lip by biting it.
“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 after the alleged attack 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.
Willey says that she was “friends” with Clinton and confided in him during the meeting that she and her husband were having financial troubles. She asked him for a promotion from her volunteer position to a paying job and says that Clinton was sympathetic and asked to talk with her in a small room off of the Oval Office. While talking in that room, Willey says Clinton cornered and assaulted her.
“My mind was racing and I thought, ‘Should I slap him? Or should I kick him? Or knee him?'” Willey recalled thinking at the time during an October 2016 interview with Hannity. “What do I do? Scream? Is the Secret Service gonna come in and descend upon me with guns?”
Former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones alleged that in 1991 she was approached by state police and told that Clinton, then the governor, wanted to meet with her. The policeman escorted Jones to Clinton’s hotel room in Little Rock, where he propositioned her for sex and exposed his genitals to her.
“He sat down, pulled down his pants, his whole everything and he was exposed and I said, ‘I’m not that kind of girl, and I need to be getting back to my desk,'” Jones recalls. “He said, ‘You’re a smart girl, let’s keep this between ourselves.'”
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 that she was harmed, either personally or in her career, by the incident, and Jones appealed the ruling.
Clinton ultimately paid Jones $850,000 as part of an out-of-court settlement agreement, but did not admit guilt or apologize to Jones.
Leslie Millwee, a former television reporter, came forward publicly for the first time in October 2016 to accuse Clinton of sexually assaulting her in 1980.
Millwee alleges that Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, groped her on several occasions at the now defunct TV station she worked at in Arkansas.
“He followed me into an editing room,” Millwee told Breitbart News in an October 2016 interview. “It was very small. There was a chair. I was sitting in a chair. He came up behind me and started rubbing my shoulders and running his hands down toward my breasts. And I was just stunned. I froze. I asked him to stop. He laughed.”
Millwee says the incidents escalated.
She said of the second alleged incident: “He came in behind me. Started hunching me to the point that he had an orgasm. He’s trying to touch my breasts. And I’m just sitting there very stiffly, just waiting for him to leave me alone. And I’m asking him the whole time, ‘Please do not do this. Do not touch me. Do not hunch me. I do not want this.'”
The third time, she says she wasn’t aware he was in the building when he found her in the editing room.
Millwee says she did not report it to authorities because he was the governor of Arkansas at the time and she worried about what would happen if she came forward.
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 fundraiser, said at the news conference. “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me.”