Hillary Clinton would like us to believe that there is a vast difference between the horrific accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct leveled against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and what Bill Clinton was accused of. But there are a number of parallels between the behavior of these men, and the national conversation has evolved enough that the techniques the Clintons used to discredit the former president’s accusers might today be called “victim blaming.”
That’s probably why Hillary’s denunciation of Weinstein, coupled with her past behavior towards Bill’s victims, and her real-life association and acceptance of Weinstein’s donations, rings false.
In an interview with Andrew Marr on BBC One, Hillary said her dismissal of Bill’s accusers in her book “What Happened” was appropriate because “that had all been litigated. I mean, that was the subject of a huge investigation, as you might recall, in the late ’90s. And there were conclusions drawn. That was clearly in the past.”
“That had all been litigated … and … conclusions drawn” is a phrase that makes it sound like Bill Clinton had been exonerated. But Hillary, with lawyerly precision, doesn’t actually say that, and her statement, while technically accurate, is incredibly misleading.
It relies on people in the United States of Amnesia not remembering clearly what happened in the ’90s.
So let’s take a brief trip down memory lane. One of the women that Trump invited for a Facebook live event, Paula Jones, had her case settled out of court for $850,000. In that case, the federal judge held Bill Clinton in contempt of court for making “intentionally false” statements in his deposition, and she fined him $90,686 “to deter others who might consider emulating the president’s misconduct.” The Arkansas bar would respond by suspending Clinton’s law license.
What had Paula Jones accused the president of?
Jones alleged “that Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas, made a crude advance in a room at a Little Rock hotel in 1991, and that her career suffered because she rejected his overtures. She was a state worker at the time,” a 1999 CNN/AP article reported.
A powerful man makes a crude advance towards a young female in a hotel room? No wonder Hillary is having such a hard time drawing a distinction between the victims of Harvey Weinstein and her husband.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Hillary has replied with a dissembling answer that parses the truth of her husband’s misdeeds in a cold, calculated answer.
After tweeting that “every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported,” Hillary was asked in December 2015 whether Bill Clinton’s accusers deserved to be “believed” as well.
“Well, I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence,” Clinton replied, in her brand of frozen, lawyerly dispassion.
Here, as in the more recent example, Hillary’s statement implies that perhaps Bill Clinton’s case had reached a point where his accusers should be “disbelieved based on evidence.”
But at least in the case of Bill’s rape accuser Juanita Broaddrick, that’s just not what happened. She says he raped her in 1978 at what she believed would be a business meeting when he was attorney general of Arkansas. She didn’t speak out for decades, and there is no definitive way to prove or disprove her allegations. There is only the fact that she has sought no monetary gain, and told the story for decades. “I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73….it never goes away,” Broaddrick wrote in a January 2016 tweet.
It’s Hillary’s aggressive behavior towards Bill’s accusers that makes her reinvention as a women’s rights activist asserting every victim has “the right to be believed” so disingenuous. Paula Jones told The New York Times that after she filed her lawsuit in 1994, Hillary Clinton “sent out people to dig up trash on me.” The New York Times reported that reportedly Clinton gave the “green light” to have a private investigator gather disparaging accounts from ex-boyfriends that would “impugn” Gennifer Flowers’ character “until she is destroyed beyond all recognition.”
Like the accusations against Bill Clinton, the accounts of outrageous behavior by Harvey Weinstein is accused of run the gamut from misconduct all the way to rape. None of the accusations against Weinstein have led to charges. As with Bill, some of Weinstein’s accusers settled. So Hillary’s dismissive “that was clearly in the past” and the phrase “that had all been litigated… and… conclusions drawn” could equally apply to Weinstein as well.
Fortunately, the modern conversation on sexual abuse and misuse of power has evolved beyond the late ‘90s. Instead of limiting ourselves to cases that have resulted in a conviction, or questions of what the victims were wearing and how many boyfriends they’ve had, we can now also ask: how are so many women telling the same story independently of each other? If they are telling the truth, what does this say about our society and how the powerful prey on the powerless?