On the Today show Monday, former president Bill Clinton revisited the controversy over his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, saying he doesn't feel he owes her an apology.
Clinton's telling response to #MeToo
On Monday, Bill Clinton was asked about the #MeToo movement, sexual misconduct allegations and his affair with Monica Lewinsky — and his responses were telling.
Clinton admitted he has never privately apologized to Lewinsky, though he said he has issued public apologies. When asked whether he owed Lewinsky an apology, Clinton’s response was, “No, I do — I do not.”
Lewinsky was 22 years old and considered an adult when their affair started. But the power disparity between the two was perhaps the largest disparity possible — he was the leader of the free world, whereas she was an intern when the affair started. Those power dynamics are ripe for abuses of authority and power, both of which make consent a much more gray area than usual. And it would have been refreshing and admirable for Clinton to acknowledge that.
In the midst of #MeToo, it would have been impressive and powerful for Clinton to demonstrate he had learned from the movement. He could have done so by admitting he had taken advantage of his authority during the Lewinsky affair, and by showing regret for having done so and for how his decisions affected Lewinsky — who was under immense public scrutiny and criticism, and who chose not to continue a career in politics as a result.
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Instead, not only did he refuse Monday to apologize for taking advantage of that power disparity, he also chose not to offer an apology for how he and his supporters disparaged Lewinsky, and destroyed her reputation in an effort to save his own skin.
Furthermore, Clinton, who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, also had the audacity to say the #MeToo movement was “way overdue” and to shamelessly point out that there are “serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office and his voters don't seem to care” — the latter of which could have also been said in the 1990s.
Clinton’s unacceptable behavior certainly does not excuse President Trump’s unacceptable behavior. But Clinton and his most ardent supporters should look in the mirror and re-examine how their own actions, including their defenses of sexual misconduct, contributed to our current political and cultural environment.
Sarah Quinlan is a contributor at Red State. Views are her own. You can follow her on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.
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What our readers are saying:
With Bill Clinton, we know what happened and we also know that Monica Lewinsky was a willing participant — at least at that point in time. The problem with Clinton was that he was doing the nasty on "company" time, in the company office. If you are going to do things like that, take it away from the office and off work hours.
— Larry Hubble
You'll hear people blame society for the inconveniences within their lives, but those people are part of what makes up the society they despise. Thanks, Clinton.
— John Glasgow
Lewinsky wasn't a victim of sexual assault. To me, she was a groupie.
— William Travis
What about so-called Christian apologists for Trump? We liberals know we are not perfect, but conservative Christians claim to be speaking for God when they are making their excuses for the Trumps and Roy Moores of the world.
— Robin Cox
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What others are saying:
Emily Jashinsky, Washington Examiner: "(Bill) Clinton seems to have missed the mood of the public, and expects to laugh and deflect his way through tough questions like it's nothing, because for two decades his party dismissed those questions, too. But he may be in for a rude awakening if anyone in his circle is bold enough to pass along the message."
Charlotte Allen, USA TODAY: "Clinton’s liaison with Lewinsky didn’t feature that sort of alleged physical violence — although there was certainly a #MeToo power imbalance between the young intern and her boss. Clinton has also been accused of crude sexual misconduct toward several other women. Yet the same feminists who recoiled when conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was charged with sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing gladly turned around and covered for Clinton because of his support of reproductive rights."
Jim Geraghty, National Review: "There are a lot of people in this world who can complain about Donald Trump and the numerous allegations of gross sexual harassment and abuse surrounding him, and the fact that a significant portion of the president’s supporters either refuse to believe the allegations or dismiss them as unimportant. But Bill Clinton doesn’t get to make the complaint about the public not taking allegations of presidential sexual misconduct seriously enough. Dear God, have some self-awareness, man."