The New York Times played preemptive defense for Hillary Clinton as Trump telegraphed a possible hit on Bill Clinton’s dark sexual past, with the Times dismissing claims of sexual assaults by Bill Clinton as "disputed" and trying hard to turn the tables on Trump and his past infidelities. In Saturday’s New York Times, Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman played preemptive defense for Hillary Clinton as Trump telegraphed a possible hit on Bill Clinton’s dark sexual past in “Clintons’ Marriage Is Trump’s New Line of Attack.”
Donald J. Trump unleashed a slashing new attack on Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions on Friday as he sought to put the Clintons’ relationship at the center of his political argument against her before their next debate.
It took all of three paragraphs for the Times to try and turn the tables on Trump.
In an interview with The New York Times, he also contended that infidelity was “never a problem” during his three marriages, though his first ended in an ugly divorce after Mr. Trump began a relationship with the woman who became his second wife.
Speaking by phone from a campaign swing in Michigan, he said that he was “absolutely disgusted” that Mrs. Clinton had allied herself politically with a Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, whom Mr. Trump had derided for gaining weight.
Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, argued that Mrs. Clinton’s support for Ms. Machado was part of a pattern by the Democrat of treating women to suit her own political ends, and raised Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of women who had been involved with her husband, such as Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers.
He said he was bringing up Mr. Clinton’s infidelities because he thought they would repulse female voters and turn them away from the Clintons, and because he was eager to unsettle Mrs. Clinton in their next two debates and on the campaign trail.
“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics,” he added about Mr. Clinton. “Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it’s a serious problem for them, and it’s something that I’m considering talking about more in the near future.”
Mr. Trump said he believed that his own marital history did not preclude him from waging such an attack. He became involved with Marla Maples while he was still married to his first wife, Ivana, who divorced him in 1991. He married Ms. Maples in 1993; they were divorced in 1999. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.
While Mr. Trump has bragged about his sexual exploits over the years, he charged in the interview that Mr. Clinton had numerous indiscretions that “brought shame onto the presidency, and Hillary Clinton was there defending him all along.”
But when asked if he had ever cheated on his wives, Mr. Trump said: “No -- I never discuss it. I never discuss it. It was never a problem.”
The Times left off the fact that beauty queen Machado has been an official part of the Clinton campaign for several months.
A Clinton campaign spokesman on Friday night described Mr. Trump as “unhinged” in his attacks on Mrs. Clinton over Ms. Machado. “As Hillary has said, Donald Trump can say whatever he wants about her, but she will not be bullied out of defending Alicia and the many other women Trump has attacked and demeaned,” said the campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon.
The reporters finally mentioned Juanita Broaddrick, who credibly accused Bill Clinton of rape while he was governor of Arkansas, and Kathleen Willey, who says she was assaulted by Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, before shrugging it off as a “she said/lawyer said” situation.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have tried to suggest focusing on accusations that Mrs. Clinton tried to discredit women who said they had been harassed by Mr. Clinton. Chief among those suggesting this approach is Roger Stone, the longest-serving Trump adviser, who wrote a book called “The Clintons’ War on Women,” laying out accusations from Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey, who have accused Mr. Clinton of sexual assault -- accusations the Clintons or their lawyer David Kendall have denied.
Mr. Trump, however, has struggled to articulate that concept, and around 5 a.m. Friday he released a series of posts on Twitter attacking Ms. Machado once again.
Maggie Haberman and Amy Chozick followed up with “Will Donald Trump Play Infidelity Card at Debate? Clinton Camp Girds.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is preparing for the possibility that Donald J. Trump, reeling from harsh criticisms of his performance at the first presidential debate, will unleash a personal assault related to her husband’s infidelities at their next face-off in a week.
It is an attack that her campaign aides have been aware could come since 2015, when Mr. Trump’s aides raised the impeachment battle that defined Bill Clinton’s second term as president to criticize Mrs. Clinton’s character.
Now, with Mr. Trump’s advisers struggling to refocus the race away from his critiques of the appearance of Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe winner who was invoked by Mrs. Clinton during the debate, the Republican nominee’s campaign has signaled a slashing effort going forward.
The Times and its Democratic allies tried to warn Trump off the matter:
Mrs. Clinton’s team, Democrats supporting her and many senior Republicans believe that rehashing Mr. Clinton’s behavior will be self-defeating for Mr. Trump, who is facing a historic gender gap and whose first marriage ended after an affair. Mrs. Clinton has also previously tended to benefit when she is seen as a victim of personal attacks.
The Times again dismissed the multiple claims against Bill Clinton.
Mr. Trump, a first-time candidate with a decades-long trail of negative comments on talk radio and in interviews about women’s appearances and abilities, has only haltingly broached both the subject of Mr. Clinton and his infidelities -- as well as disputed claims that Mrs. Clinton worked to discredit women involved with her husband...
Before he ran for president, Mr. Trump, who invited the Clintons to his third wedding, dismissed the Lewinsky scandal as a nonissue. But the Trump campaign, in its third iteration of leadership, is now populated with and advised by people who witnessed the impeachment firsthand, and who see it as a potent issue. They were once part of what Mrs. Clinton dismissed as the “vast right-wing conspiracy” intent on dredging up scandals involving Mr. Clinton, including the Lewinsky issue.