Journalists have been unsurprisingly slow to notice the latest appalling comments from Bill Clinton in which he appears to insist that times have changed and you can no longer grope people. On Thursday’s PBS NewsHour, he talked to Judy Woodruff about Al Franken and the senator’s abrupt exit from the Senate in 2017.
Clinton responded with this jaw-dropping answer: “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.” (Franken resigned last year after eight women accused him of inappropriate touching and a 2006 picture surfaced of him groping a sleeping woman.)
Since then, the network newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC have ignored the comments in which Clinton went on to defend Franken with this assertion of how he’s “old fashioned”:
I will be honest, the Franken case, for me, was a difficult case, a hard case. There may be things I don't know, but I — maybe I'm just an old-fashioned person, but it seemed to me that there were 29 women on Saturday Night Live that put out a statement for him, that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question.
Just for comparison, here is the picture of Franken groping TV personality Leeaan Tweeden in 2006:
To its credit, CNN has covered the story. On Monday, analyst Chris Cillizza slammed Clinton as out of touch with reality:
It's clear the Me Too movement, the changes in the culture which he seems to be trying to acknowledge are either lost on him or he doesn't get it, or he doesn't know how to verbalize it. We saw this in him talking to Monica Lewinsky early in this book tour and now this.
Again, the norms of what you can force someone to do haven't changed. You can't force someone to do anything. That was the case 25 years ago. It is the case today. I guess he might be referring to sort of conduct that falls into a grey area that's not forcing people on what to do, but again, he just feels like -- it feels, watching him, Kate, like he just doesn't get it. It's that simple.
On Monday’s Late Night With Seth Meyers, CNN’s Jake Tapper brought up Clinton’s latest comments, marveling at their awfulness:
That one he did... about whether or not you can grope people.... People have different rules today about where you're allowed to touch them on their bodies involuntarily.... And then he ended it with, “Maybe I'm old fashioned.”
Tapper concluded that one couldn’t be more out of touch if the ex-president “wanted to write the worst answer he could give.” It seems like these comments deserve some attention from ABC, CBS and NBC.
Transcript of Clinton’s original comments and the exchange with Tapper are below. Click “expand” to read more.
WOODRUFF: I assume you think that what happened with you was more serious than what happened with Senator — former Senator Al Franken. He was driven from office, from the U.S. Senate. So, norms have changed. Do you think that’s a good thing?
CLINTON: Well, in general, I think it’s a good thing, yes. 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. You don’t have to physically assault somebody to make them, you know, uncomfortable at work or at home or in their other — just walking around. That, I think, is good.
I think that — I will be honest, the Franken case, for me, was a difficult case, a hard case. There may be things I don't know, but I — maybe I'm just an old-fashioned person, but it seemed to me that there were 29 women on Saturday Night Live that put out a statement for him, that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question. Too late to wade into it now. I mean, I think it's a grievous thing to take away from the people a decision they have made, especially when there was an election coming up again, but it's done now, and I think that all of us should just be focusing on how to do better and how to go forward.
Late Night With Seth Meyers
JAKE TAPPER: The world has changed, so you have to adapt. And I would think he would have had automatic answers for "Do you owe Monica Lewinsky an apology?” “What do you make of the Me too movement?” “What do you make of this individual case?” Harvey Weinstein, whoever. And, boy, some of the answers have been just -- -you couldn't -- if you wanted to write the worst answer he could give.
SETH MEYERS: Yeah.
TAPPER: It as almost as if -- that one he did today [sic] about whether or not you can grope people.
MEYERS: Yeah. It's a --
TAPPER: People have different rules today about where you're allowed to talk — to touch them on their bodies involuntarily.
MEYERS: It was -- yeah. It was — not well thought out. [ Laughter ]
TAPPER: And then he said -- and then he ended it with, you know, but, you know, ‘Maybe I'm old fashioned.’