The #MeToo Movement Should Not Accept Bill Clinton's Tone-Deaf Responses

This morning, Bill Clinton had an interview with Craig Melvin on NBC News’ Today, which you can watch here, in which he was asked about the #MeToo movement and his affair with Monica Lewinsky.


At USA TODAY, I had the opportunity to share my opinion on Clinton’s non-apology, some of which are excerpted below.

Though Monica Lewinsky was legally an adult when the affair started, the power disparity between 49-year-old President Clinton and 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky was significant:

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.


Unfortunately — but perhaps not surprisingly — Clinton seemed entirely unrepentant and in fact seemingly grew frustrated with Melvin for daring to question him. He defended his decision to fight impeachment and asked Melvin if he believed JFK (a notorious womanizer who cheated on his wife) should have resigned.

But he did not offer remorse for how he and his supporters painted a starstruck 22-year-old intern as a villainous seductress or even acknowledge the ways that Lewinsky suffered as a result of the affair.

This is unacceptable.

Twenty years ago, rather than ignite a #MeToo movement, Bill Clinton’s supporters rushed to defend him based solely on his politics — his defenders even included progressive feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who wrote in the New York Times that “even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment.”

Today, at least one actress and #MeToo activist refused to accept that Clinton had done no wrong and that Lewinsky was not owed an apology:


Brava for McGowan.

We need more people like her and like NBC correspondent Craig Melvin, who brought up the #MeToo movement and Lewinsky — when many journalists in his shoes might have chosen not to — and pressed Clinton when he tried to avoid answering Melvin’s questions.

In its Clinton non-apology coverage, USA TODAY also included excerpts from the Washington Examiner and National Review. Read the responses in full here.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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