Former president Bill Clinton’s book tour once more took a detour onto the subject of sexual harassment.
Clinton, who made headlines last week for saying he did not owe Monica Lewinsky a personal apology, defended former Minnesota senator Al Franken and said “norms have changed” in terms of “what you can do to somebody against their will,” during an interview Judy Woodruff on PBS “News Hour.”
In an interview that aired Thursday, Woodruff pointed out that the allegations of misconduct against Franken were not as serious as those that were leveled at Clinton both during and before his time in office. Yet, Clinton survived his scandals, while Franken was driven from the Senate.
“So, norms have changed. Do you think that’s a good thing?” Woodruff asked.
“Well, in general, I think it’s a good thing, yes,” Clinton replied. “I think it’s a good thing that we should all have higher standards. I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work.”
Clinton added that you “don’t have to physically assault somebody” to make them “uncomfortable.”
The 42nd president said that Franken was “a difficult case” for him because while there may be facts he doesn’t know about the allegations, many of Franken’s past female colleagues came to his defense.
“Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned person,” Clinton said, “but it seemed to me that there were 29 women on ‘Saturday Night Live’ that put out a statement for him, and that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question.”
Clinton also felt it is “a grievous thing to take away from the people a decision they have made,” referring to Franken’s election to his second term in the Senate. “But it’s done now,” he said.
“I think that all of us should just be focusing on how to do better and how to go forward,” Clinton said.
This is the second time Clinton’s tour to promote a novel he co-wrote with author James Patterson has been sidetracked by the issue of sexual harassment. One week ago on the “Today” show, Clinton bristled at questions about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and said he did not believe he owed her any apology beyond what he has already said publicly.
In that interview Clinton said he had paid a price for he affair, including ending up $16 million in debt. But he told Woodruff that “was the least of it.”
“The price that I paid mostly was the pain I caused to my wife and daughter,” Clinton said. He also said Lewsinky “paid quite a price.”
Clinton said he feared Lewinsky would “become frozen in the public mind for the rest of her life” and “I didn’t want that for her.”
“I think she’s tried to build a bigger, different, broader life and I hope she has,” he said.
Lewinsky has said that in light of the #MeToo movement she has reconsidered her relationship with Clinton and questioned how consensual an affair between a 22-year-old intern and the president can be.
Source: William Cummings, USA TODAY
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