Feminism “died a little bit” during the Bill Clinton sex scandals of the 1990s, and Hillary Clinton helped kill it, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd argued on Monday.
In an interview with Yahoo! News, Dowd and host Katie Couric discussed a New York Times front-page article detailing the former first lady’s role in smearing the women who claimed they had affairs with her husband.
“There’s a very fixed pattern of Bill Clinton saying he didn’t do it, you know, Hillary and other people kind of trying to trash the women who said it, and years later Bill Clinton having to admit to having the affairs,” Dowd told Couric.
“The feminists had to come along with Bill Clinton’s retrogressive behavior with women in order to protect the progressive policies for women that Bill Clinton had as president.”
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The Times article laid out numerous examples of Hillary Clinton’s efforts — both in public and in private — to undermine her husband’s mistresses and accusers.
“We have to destroy her story,” Clinton said of Connie Hamzy, a woman who claimed that Clinton propositioned her in a Little Rock hotel room, The Times reminded readers.
“Who’s tracking down all the research on Gennifer?” she said of Gennifer Flowers, the Arkansas state employee who came forward in 1992 to say she had had a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton.
Then the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton denied Flowers’ accusation. But during a deposition in 1998, he admitted that he had had sex with her.
But even though Hillary Clinton knew that her husband had had affairs throughout their marriage, she sought to discredit Flowers in public during the run-up to the election.
In an interview with ABC News’ Sam Donaldson in Jan. 1992, Clinton pointed out that Flowers had been paid for her story and that she was “some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a resume to fall back on.”
Asked during a June 1992 interview with late night talk show host Arsenio Hall what Flowers’ “problem is,” Clinton responded: “She’s got lots of problems.”
The Times also noted that Hillary Clinton was involved with Clinton insiders in hiring private investigator Jack Palladino to dig up dirt on Flowers. The effort involved interviewing Flowers’ ex-boyfriends and finding any other embarrassing information about her.
In an article for Vanity Fair published in 1992, reporter Gail Sheehy recounted her conversations with Clinton. She wrote that Clinton’s anger was “not anger at Bill,” but was instead aimed “at Flowers, the press and Republicans.”
Clinton told Sheehy that if given the chance to cross-examine Flowers in front of a jury, “I would crucify her.”
For Dowd, who has been a vocal critic of the Clintons for two decades, the Clinton team’s attacks against the then-president’s accusers targeted their socioeconomic status.
“They were kind of demonized on class,” the columnist told Couric, citing as an example an infamous remark made in 1997 by Clinton strategist James Carville.
“Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and there’s no telling what you’ll find,” Carville said of Paula Jones, the Arkansas woman who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.
Dowd also lamented that the White House forced two high-ranking female administration officials to publicly support Clinton during the scandals.
“Bill Clinton had [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright and [Secretary of Health and Human Services] Donna Shalala come out and say he was telling the truth on Monica,” Dowd said.
“And so all of these amazing, accomplished women that worked around him were kind of called to support him, and it’s almost a class issue, because they would put down these women on class or, in Monica’s case, they would say she’s a delusional stalker,” she added, referring to Monica Lewinsky.
“I do think that feminism died a little bit when the feminists had to help Bill Clinton when Monica was actually telling the truth,” Dowd continued. “They had to support Bill Clinton just because they wanted his progressive policies on women.”