While a number of liberal journalists and politicians have had the sudden revelation that they supported a “sexual predator” in the White House twenty plus years ago, some liberals are having the exact opposite reaction to the anti-sexual harassment wave that has swept the culture.
MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews lamented on his show last Friday that he was actually “too tough” on Bill Clinton back then, despite being one of the few journalists who was critical of Clinton at the time.
Matthews argued with fellow MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle about whether Clinton or Monica Lewinsky was treated “worse” by the media, with Ruhle making the argument that the media was too lenient on Clinton and had blamed Lewinsky for the affair, while Matthews defended the media’s treatment of Clinton, saying he wished he had been less judgemental of the president.
“The increased focus now on sexual misconduct has forced Democrats and Republicans to come face to face with some of their party's sordid past. For Democrats, the party of women, because women have been voting more democratic for years now. The allegations against Al Franken has started a national discussion about their support of Bill Clinton,” he launched the discussion.
“Has Bill Clinton's day of reckoning come? I think it has,” Matthews began, after playing the clip of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand telling a NYT reporter he should’ve resigned after the Lewinsky scandal came to light.
Matthews downplayed the decades old story, asking Ruhle, “What more needs to be said” about Clinton’s behavior at this point?
Stephanie, Bill Clinton was impeached, he wasn't convicted but had to be tried before the United States Senate. Everybody this side of the world, in fact, all around the world, knew what he was involved with with a young employee and former intern, we all knew the situation. We all pretty much knew the Starr report, even the too much information part. We do know what happened. We knew the president wasn't honest in his grand jury testimony, we know all of that. What more needs to be said about that at this point all these years later?
Matthews proceeded to argue with Ruhle about the media’s reaction to the scandal, with the host playing the Clinton apologist and having apparent amnesia over how Clinton was covered by the media at the time:
STEPHANIE RUHLE: I mean, listen, we called it the Lewinsky scandal, we didn’t call it the Clinton scandal and we looked at Monica Lewinsky as a villain. But come on, Chris, she was a victim.
MATTHEWS: We did? I'm talking about the punishment -- look, I was tougher on Bill Clinton than just about anybody on the center left. I know all about it. I remember what I was. I sometimes think I was too tough on him. But one thing you can't say is that people didn't get it. A very clear hearing on what he’d done it. We saw it, we talked about it and he was judged by the United States Senate, wasn't he?
RUHLE: He was definitely judged by the United States Senate, and Monica Lewinsky was practically run out of town. Look at Kirsten Gillibrand making the brave statement she has right now, and she's getting pushback from those who’ve said the Clintons, they gave you money, they gave you Hillary Clinton's seat, you should be grateful. But Kirsten Gillibrand was not in a position then to say anything. The world accepted the Clintons. They were among the most powerful people in the democratic party. We all accepted it. And now Kirsten Gillibrand is in a position of power and it's pretty brave of her right now to say something like she has.
After bemoaning sexism in the workplace and culture, Matthews interrupted her to bring it back to Bill Clinton:
“Stephanie, please don't argue with me. I'm just trying to say that Bill Clinton, who I was very tough on, went through hell on this. What did he escape, just help me out. How did he escape judgment?" Matthews pleaded.
“He didn't escape judgment. It was just a different time. People judged Bill Clinton. But over year after year, we accepted -- I mean, Bill Clinton was a womanizer for years, and we accepted it. And now which Kirsten Gillibrand is trying to say, maybe we shouldn't have,” Ruhle argued.
Matthews then wondered “what should be done now” about Clinton’s other sexual assault cases, involving Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willie.
His other guest, Eugene Scott of The Washington Post, blasted Democrats, including Hillary Clinton for attacking and discrediting Bill Clinton’s accusers at the time. He tied Democrats reaction at the time to the supporters of President Trump and Roy Moore:
I think moving forward, what people are asking is that Democrats be consistent with believing women. And I think that's what Gillibrand was getting to. When these allegations came up, people did not immediately believe women. We had people, including Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton other Democrat strategists try to discredit these women in a way very similar to what we're seeing Roy Moore do, as well as Donald Trump involving the women that have accused them of inappropriate behavior. So whether or not Bill Clinton got impeached or was criticized or received negative pushback isn’t the main focus, I think the main focus is just how much women were not believed when they came forward against the president.
But Matthews was still stuck on Ruhle’s argument that Clinton was given a pass by the media.
MATTHEWS: I think people thought, by the way, Stephanie, on your point, I think that people thought Bill Clinton was the predator in regard to Monica Lewinsky. Did they say she was the predator or aggressor, sexually? I think Clinton took that hit. As the person in charge of that office, as president of the United States, he was in a superior person. He shouldn’t have had anything to do with her socially or sexually at all.
RUHLE: He took that hit, but so did she. I mean, do you mean to tell me, you don't think that Monica Lewinsky also took a hit? Come on.
SCOTT: She took a bigger hit. Clinton launched a much more lucrative career after all this, and Monica Lewinsky was a very promising young person, interning in the White House, and her career as a result has not become what it could have been --
RUHLE: Hold on. She was not Bill Clinton's peer. So it's not like they're one in the same. But Monica Lewinsky’s life to a large part was destroyed.
RUHLE: Bill Clinton's wasn't.
Wrapping it up, Matthews conceded to his guests’ points and again offered penitence for how hard he was on Clinton at the time.
“We can agree on that. Thank you, Stephanie. I hear your points, and they're well received here. Thank you, Eugene. I’m trying to make up for the fact I think I was too tough on Clinton. Anyway,” he admitted.