By Bonnie K. Goodman
After hearing the news about an audio recording of Republican nominee Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton responded with outrage. On Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, The Washington Post released a report about the 2005 recording of Trump bragging to then Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush about his sexual exploits, groping, and kissing women when he wanted and his unsuccessful attempt at bedding a married TV host. Trump immediately faced a backlash mostly from fellow Republicans especially those in Congress. Clinton also responded with outrage, calling his remarks “horrific.” Clinton’s reactions come off as hypocritical considering her husband’s past sex scandals, with the nation needing a refresher in Clinton history to put it all in perspective.
Clinton had a much different response when news broke of her husband then President Bill Clinton’s greatest sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky broke in January 1998. Hillary’s appearance on Tuesday, January 27, 1998, edition of NBC’s “Today” show is legendary for the unabashed defense of her husband, blaming the Republicans for being out to get her husband and sabotage his presidency. Her remarks came as Clinton denied ever having “sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Lewinsky was all of only 22 when the affair began in 1995, while Clinton was 49.
Speaking on “Today” to host Matt Lauer Hillary said: “This is-the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.”
Later in the interview, she gave additional remarks, now perceived as threats towards Lewinsky and any other women that have or would come forward against her husband. Hillary attacked these women, saying, “I think we’re going to find some other things. And I think that when all of this is put into context, and we really look at the people involved here, look at their motivations and look at their backgrounds, look at their past behavior, some folks are going to have a lot to answer for.”
It would take over six months, finally in August 1998; Clinton admitted to having a relationship with Lewinsky after DNA from her blue dress proved he had a relationship with the intern and committed perjury. The president was forced, to tell the truth in his grand jury testimony. The president later appeared on national television acknowledging his wrongdoing and apologizing. Clinton in his speech said, “I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.” Hillary was furious, but she forgave him, and stood by him through the humiliation, forever the good wife, parlaying the public pity into a political career and fruitful run for a New York Senate seat in 2000. Her political career’s foundations were built on her husband’s scandals.
The Starr Report written by independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr about his findings on the president’s wrongdoings was released the next month in September 1998. The report with testimony from Lewinsky read like a soft porn movie, with Lewinsky and Clinton’s trysts happening in the Oval Office or adjacent to it, even as the president was conducting official business. Reading the Starr Report, one felt they needed a cold shower to clean up and this is coming from an official government document.
The Lewinsky scandal was hardly Clinton’s first time dealing with sex scandal accusations; he was an old pro throughout his political career in Arkansas and the presidency. In January 1992, his candidacy for the Democratic nomination was nearly derailed from the news he had a 12-year affair years before with cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers. There too, Hillary’s fierce defense and forgiveness on national TV, this time, a CBS News’ “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft saved his political career. At the time, Hillary blamed Flowers for being out to ruin her husband’s aspirations. Then Hillary famously said “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” and that, “I think it’s real dangerous in this country if we don’t have some zone of privacy for everybody.”
In fact, Hillary also blamed all the women for her husband’s scandals leaving him blameless. The women still accuse Hillary of being the mastermind who sucked private detectives on them and went about destroying their lives and credibility to the nation to save her husband’s and as we now know her presidential goals. Now all of a sudden, Hillary has become puritanical. To her Trump’s actions, here words are far worse than anything her husband has done to her and the nation? Clinton tweeted, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president,” yet she wanted the country to allow her husband to remain president in 1998.
Hillary and the country have a short memory of who exactly they are letting back into the White House when they elect Hillary Clinton in November. Hillary stood by her man, not for him but her ambitions to become president, she forgave him; she has condoned his actions by remaining with him. She was his co-president in the 1990s, and he has been her co-campaigner in 2008 and 2016 and will be her co-president. Only a divorce, could give her moral superiority, but we will never see that.
For Republicans abandoning Trump so quickly they are letting back their greatest foe into the White House and the presidency, as the repeatedly clashed with Clinton the first time around in the 1990s and tried even to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. Yes, Clinton was only the second president ever impeached by the House of Representatives, the other Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868. Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury in his testimony for the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. Only the Senate’s Democrats and 10 Republicans saved Clinton from being forced out of the presidency in shame and altering the Clintons’ reprise to power. Still, he was found in contempt of court in civil proceedings and fined. Clinton also had his license to practice law suspended for five years by the state of Arkansas and the Supreme Court.
For the nation, Clinton had an over 60 percent approval rating during his impeachment. In that midterm election year, the Democrats gained seats in Congress, at a time when the ruling party usually loses seats, as is often the case in the last midterms of the presidency. The American public forgave Clinton quickly, stood by him, and even revered him for loathsome, offensive, sexist and disrespectful sexual actions he did while president. He is now the respected elder statesman, but by the grace of his party, he could have been as disgraced as Richard Nixon who resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.
Trump was right to bring up the Clinton’s scandals in his apology. In the video statement released Friday evening, Oct. 7, Trump said, “I never said I’m a perfect person nor pretended to be someone I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them. These words don’t reflect who I am. I said it; I was wrong and I apologize.” Then the GOP nominee decided to go on the attack, contrasting his words to Bill Clinton’s actions as president. Trump continued, “I’ve said some foolish things, but there is a big difference between the words and actions of other people Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, intimidated and shamed his victims.”
Although Trump’s remarks are reprehensible, no one should deny it, but as his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski noted ‘We’re not electing a Sunday school teacher,’ but world leader, a president. Trump’s words are probably less offensive than what former President Clinton did to the women he was involved with. His hijinks with Lewinsky in the Oval Office were a disgrace, a disgusting offense done in the nation’s house while conducting official duties of the presidency.
In contrast, Trump was a private citizen. He was speaking off the record in an entertainment news interview on one of the trashiest television news shows Access Hollywood, on the way to filming a cameo on a soap opera, Days of Our Lives, where the characters’ sex romps outshine the story lines, and actors have to be sexy to succeed. Trump, the aging man, attempted to recapture his youth and wild oats with embellishing talk of sexual exploits. Trump’s comments also come in another lifetime just months after the Clintons and Trumps were caught laughing together at Trump’s wedding to Melania, 11 years later they are arch rivals for the presidency.
Trump is right if not tactful or politically correct is it was “locker room banter,” the type of sexist talk, unfortunately, men all over the country if not the world engage. Unfortunately, as much as political correctness wants to believe otherwise men are not that evolved. Trump’s previous public personas and time as a celebrity in the limelight were in the 1980s as the yuppie millionaire dandy, the 1990s as the beauty pageant operator or later in the oughts as the reality TV star. Throughout Trump has been known for his antics, big talk, relationships, and two divorces; Republicans cannot be shocked, nobody can by his remarks.
Why has the public forgave Bill Clinton’s actions from 18 years ago, but are aghast by Trump’s words from 11 years ago? Why is there a double standard when it comes to the Clintons, where they are forgiven, but everyone has to pay penance for the same or lesser actions? Let’s not forget Clinton’s sex scandals were not all consensual as the star struck Lewinsky. He was accused of raping Juanita Broaddrick in 1978, sexually harassing Paula Jones in 1991, and fondling and groping Kathleen Willey in 1993 as president in the Oval Office.
We have to all remember there were reasons why Trump and Bill Clinton were ever friends; they had in common their behavior or sexist talk about women. As Trump brought up in his first apology statement, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.” Now the American voter has to realize that neither nominee is morally pure but only one brings baggage that had sex scandals in the White House, and that is Hillary Clinton until she divorces Bill she carries his weight, his scandals are “with her.”
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.