In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Hillary Clinton said her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the political scandal that derailed his presidency, wasn’t an abuse of the office, because Lewinsky “was an adult” at the time.
CBS correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked Clinton if the former president’s relationship with Lewinsky when she was a White House intern constituted “an abuse of power.”
“No, no,” Clinton replied.
Dokoupil pressed: “There are people who look at the incidents of the ‘90s and they say a President of the United States cannot have a consensual relationship with an intern, the power imbalance is too great—”
“Who was an adult,” Clinton cut in, referring to Lewinsky. “But let me ask you this: Where is the investigation of the current incumbent?”
Dokoupil also asked the former secretary of state about Bill’s other accusers, referring to women like Gennifer Flowers, who had a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton before he was elected president.
“What role if any did you play in criticizing the character of the women who have accused Bill of sexual misconduct?” Dokoupil asked.
“None, no role,” Clinton responded. “I take responsibility for my life and my actions.”
Other reports tell a slightly different story. Per a 2016 New York Times story, some accounts frame Clinton as a driving force in the campaign to discredit Flowers and other women who accused Bill of sexual misconduct. Donald Trump weaponized several of these stories, in particular Juanita Broddrick’s allegations, during the 2016 campaign. Per the New York Times:
Other candidates had been driven out of races by accusations of infidelity. But now, at a cold, dark airfield in South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton was questioning campaign aides by phone and vowing to fight back on behalf of her husband.
“Who’s tracking down all the research on Gennifer?” she asked, according to a journalist traveling with her at the time.
Mr. Clinton brushed off the story, saying that Ms. Hamzy had made a sexual advance toward him, George Stephanopoulos, the communications director of the 1992 campaign, recalled in his book, “All Too Human.”
But Mrs. Clinton demanded action.
“We have to destroy her story,” she said, according to Mr. Stephanopoulos.
But the Times also noted that it remains uncertain what role Clinton played in the smear campaigns against Bill’s accusers:
Mrs. Clinton’s level of involvement in that effort, as described in interviews, internal campaign records and archives, is still the subject of debate. By some accounts, she gave the green light and was a motivating force; by others, her support was no more than tacit assent.
Regardless, her insistence that there was no imbalance of power between her husband and a 22-year-old intern seems shockingly out of touch for the current climate.