Reaction across the political spectrum to Clinton’s comments was quick and mostly harsh. Though Clinton has frequently praised the #MeToo movement, her words seemed to validate the frequent criticism of her on the right that the former first lady enabled her husband’s misdeeds and exacerbated their ill effects when she blamed the women involved.
Part of Clinton’s point seemed to be that her husband did not physically force himself on Lewinsky by making unwanted advances, as has been the case for many — but certainly not all — of the politicians, Hollywood moguls and entertainers who have lost their jobs as stories about their sexual misconduct have become national news.
Lewinsky has never claimed that she was the victim of an nonconsensual act, though earlier this year she wrote in Vanity Fair that “what transpired between Bill Clinton and myself was not sexual assault, although we now recognize that it constituted a gross abuse of power.”
Sexual misconduct has ended many political careers in the past year. Clinton does not think it should have ended that of her husband; she also said in the interview that she doesn’t think his behavior should have been disqualifying.
“In retrospect, do you think Bill should’ve resigned in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal?” Dokoupil asked.
“Absolutely not,” Clinton replied.
At best, Clinton’s logic seems inconsistent and a refusal to acknowledge the role her husband has played in defining the #MeToo movement. His case, and Lewinsky’s treatment, is a frequently referenced marker for how far things have come since the ’90s.
The type of behavior Bill Clinton exhibited is anathema to what many in his own party find acceptable today. Hillary Clinton’s comments may not harm her in the future — she seems unlikely to have any further political ambition. But she did hand opponents of Democrats, who want to portray themselves as on the right side of this issue, a weapon to charge them with hypocrisy.