The Lasting Legacy of Bill Clinton (and the Media)
No one in the media seemed to care. In fact, the people and the politicians who tried to get the media to care, who tried to get justice for his victims, were vilified, and even ruined. We were told his illegal behavior was “just sex”, “boys being boys”, “it didn’t rise to the level of impeachment”, or “a vast right-wing conspiracy”. Nothing to see here. Move on.
The media did not treat 1988 Democratic Presidential hopeful Gary Hart that way when it was revealed that he was having an affair with a campaign staffer. The negative media coverage was so severe that he was forced to withdraw his candidacy in the Democratic Primaries.
There was a level of perceived personal conduct expected from our political leaders back then. Even if the media willfully ignored certain behavior like they did with John F Kennedy so they and the country would not have to confront it, the standard was there, nonetheless. That all changed in 1992 with the candidacy of Bill Clinton. The media overlooked and even empowered him after his 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers came to light. They tried to discredit her by calling her a “bimbo” and a “stalker”.
The media acted as attack dogs going after Paula Jones for her accusations of sexual harassment against Clinton, calling her things like “trailer trash” and “gold digger”. She should have been glorified as the first #metoo, but she was publicly destroyed. The media completely ignored the credible rape allegations brought against Clinton by Juanita Broderick and Kathleen Willey. Instead of trying expose the abuses and illegal behavior of the most powerful man in the free world, the media was his most strident defenders.
But then came Monica Lewinsky. A 50-year-old President of the United States, the most powerful man in the free world, used the power of his office to manipulate a 22-year-old intern, the least powerful person in the Federal Government, into having sex with him. This was not John F Kennedy having an affair with Marilyn Monroe, two extremely famous powerful people, choosing to have an affair. This was exploitation and abuse at the highest level.
If you have been paying attention, sexual assault and sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power. There has not been a bigger disparity of power in a sexual assault/harassment situation than the Clinton-Lewinsky case.
We, as a country, had a chance to draw the line in the sand. To make a statement that this type of behavior would not be tolerated. There would not be a bigger statement of the vulnerable against the powerful, then the removal of a President for his sexual exploitation of a young powerless woman. But we chose not to. We chose political expedience over protecting the victim.
No one in the media cared about the young vulnerable woman being destroyed by the most powerful man in the free world. The media protected the powerful man. They mocked and ridiculed his victim. They made fun of her looks, her clothes, the beret she wore. Even many self-proclaimed feminists sided with Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky.
World famous feminist Gloria Steinem defended Bill Clinton in an article for the New York Times in 1998, where she tried to discredit his female victims of his illegal sexual conduct, using some of the most convoluted and contradictory arguments. She claimed that the “real violators of Ms. Lewinsky's will were Linda Tripp, … the F.B.I. agents … and Kenneth Starr”. She argued that the people who were trying to protect Ms. Lewinsky from a sexual predator were the real villains.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Maureen Dowd, renowned for standing up for women’s rights wrote this about Monica Lewinsky in February, 1998, calling her “a ditsy, predatory White House intern who might have lied under oath for a job at Revlon” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd.” Ms. Steinem and Ms. Dowd were part of the media malpractice that set women’s rights back at least 50 years.
Not throwing Bill Clinton out of office was a tacit approval of his predatory behavior to all the powerful men in the world. It told them we will turn a blind eye to your abuse of young women especially if you so empathetically support a woman’s right to choose to terminate the baby that your sexual abuse created. It makes no moral sense.
So here we are in the age of #metoo. And the same people who stridently defended Bill Clinton are now outraged at the behavior of Harvey Weinstein. Maybe if the media treated the conduct of Bill Clinton as the crimes, they were back in 1998, a precedent would have been set to the rest of the powerful men in this country that this behavior will not be tolerated. Powerful men would think, if the President can get fired for abusing young women than so can I.
Maybe if we did the right thing back then, there would not be as many #metoos today. Maybe Harvey Weinstein would not have committed the crimes he did, or maybe he would have gotten caught sooner because women would have been more empowered to speak up because Bill Clinton’s victims were taken seriously, not mocked, ridiculed and dismissed. Maybe there would be less victims. Maybe there would not have been Jeffrey Epstein’s pedophile island, and there would be hundreds or thousands fewer women living with the scars of sexual assault today.
But the media protected Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. When reporters had evidence of their rampant illegal sexual behavior, the New York Times and NBC killed the stories of these high-profile Democratic donors to protect Clinton’s campaign, Hillary this time, not Bill.
So, here we are again, Joe Biden facing a credible accusation of sexual assault from Tara Reade, and the media is treating it the same way they treated Bill Clinton, nothing to see here. The media does not care about protecting women or justice, they only care about taking down powerful men they do not like, and protecting those they do like.
I do not know if Tara Reade’s allegations are true or not, and neither does anyone else other than the two involved. But they are credible enough for a legitimate investigation. Why is no one in the media demanding for University of Delaware to unseal documents relating to Joe Biden’s Senatorial career that would have documentation of Ms. Reade’s allegation right after she claimed the assault occurred? The journalistic inquisitiveness is non-existent in this case. The country came to a screeching halt for two weeks of hearings on the allegations against Justice Kavanaugh which were far less credible than Tara Reade’s allegations.
The lasting nefarious Clinton legacy was not upended by the #metoo movement, it has become more entrenched. Sexual assault allegations are now used as weapons against political opponents, and not used to get justice for the victims. And the willingness of the media to weaponize an accusation, and their limiting process of determining the credibility of the claim as to only look at whether the accused had an R or a D next to their name, has led to many false allegations and further injustices against women.
Bill Clinton’s legacy is the reason why in November we must choose between one accused sexual abuser or another accused sexual abuser. We will never find the truth in any of these accusations because it is not about justice for victims, it is about who gets to control the $4.4 trillion Federal Government. So, no one in power really cares about you Monica, Paula, Gennifer, Juanita, Kathleen, Tara, Stormy, regardless of rhetoric the politicians campaign managers tell them to spew about women’s rights and justice for victims.