Monday 19 November 2018

Men like Bill Clinton need to recognise when their behaviour crosses the line

The ex-president's peevish response to questions about Monica Lewinsky shows why #MeToo remains so vital, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Former US president Bill Clinton admitted his appearance on NBC’s ‘Today’ show ‘wasn’t my finest hour’
Former US president Bill Clinton admitted his appearance on NBC’s ‘Today’ show ‘wasn’t my finest hour’

Eilis O'Hanlon

NBC reporter Craig Melvin was probably unknown to most people on this side of the Atlantic before last week, and even to many on that side of it too. Not any more. Former US president Bill Clinton's ill-judged response to some fairly reasonable questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky 20 years ago has seen to that.

Clinton evidently expected to enjoy some soft focus publicity for the new novel he's co-written with bestselling thriller author James Patterson, such as he received from a much more compliant Ryan Tubridy on the RTE star's radio show last week. Instead he found himself asked by Melvin on news show Today, whether, in light of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, he'd ever reflected on how he treated Lewinsky when he was the most powerful man in the world and she was a 22-year- old intern starting her very first job after college.

Clinton's response was highly instructive, and not simply about his own sense of entitlement, though that was striking enough. A body language expert would have a field day interpreting his tensed-up, rigid reaction, as if he was holding in a huge amount of anger which his frail frame could not contain. He seemed to think that he should not be asked such questions, because it had all been "litigated" years ago; and Patterson joined in, possibly annoyed that an interview to plug another of his avalanche of books had been taken over with political discussion about these matters. "Let's talk about JFK. Let's talk about, you know, LBJ. Stop already," he said testily, and Clinton agreed. Should they, he seemed to say, also have resigned for being creeps?

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