In January 2016, Amy Chozick of the New York Times wrote an article called “’90s Scandals Threaten to Erode Hillary Clinton’s Strength With Women.” I don’t think, as it turned out, that the scandals had this effect. In light of recent developments, however, it’s worth taking another look at Chozick’s piece.
Chozick began by reporting that at an Upper East Side dinner party hosted by the head of HBO, Lena Dunham said she was disturbed by how, in the 1990s, the Clintons and their allies discredited women who reported having sexual encounters with or being sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton. According to Chozick, Dunham’s concern “capture[d] the deeper debate unfolding among liberal-leaning women about how to reconcile Mrs. Clinton’s leadership on women’s issues with her past involvement in her husband’s efforts to fend off accusations of sexual misconduct.” There was, Chozick said, a “rethinking among some feminists about how prominent women stood by Mr. Clinton and disparaged his accusers after the “bimbo eruptions,” as a close aide to the Clintons. . .called the claims of affairs and sexual assault against Mr. Clinton in his 1992 campaign.”
Chozick wasn’t bashful about recounting Hillary’s role in “standing by her man.” She reminded readers:
“We have to destroy her story,” Mrs. Clinton said in 1991 of Connie Hamzy, one of the first women to come forward during her husband’s first presidential campaign, according to George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton administration aide who described the events in his memoir, “All Too Human.” (Three people signed sworn affidavits saying Ms. Hamzy’s story was false.)
When Gennifer Flowers later surfaced, saying that she had had a long affair with Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Clinton undertook an “aggressive, explicit direction of the campaign to discredit” Ms. Flowers, according to an exhaustive biography of Mrs. Clinton, “A Woman in Charge,” by Carl Bernstein.
Mrs. Clinton referred to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who had an affair with the 42nd president, as a “narcissistic loony toon,” according to one of her closest confidantes, Diane D. Blair, whose diaries were released to the University of Arkansas after her death in 2000.
Ms. Lewinsky later called the comment an example of Mrs. Clinton’s impulse to “blame the woman.”
I don’t doubt Chozick’s report of a “rethinking” by feminists of Hillary’s role. However, it never threatened Hillary’s campaign because the views remained behind closed doors.
Chozick’s article foreshadowed this. She reported that publicly, Dunham had a different take than the one she articulated at the posh dinner party. Her public position, as Chozick described it, was that Hillary’s career is a monument to overcoming sexism.
Dunham refused to comment on the report of her remarks at the dinner party. Her spokeswoman said that Dunham is “fully supportive of Hillary Clinton and her track record for protecting women,” and that the description of her comments at the dinner party was a “total mischaracterization.”
(These days, Dunham is defending the writer of “Girls” from the allegation that he raped a 17 year-old. Earlier this year, however, Dunham tweeted, stupidly, “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape”).
It’s clear from Chozick’s article that the willingness of feminists to attack the Clintons at this moment is not the result of new thinking prompted by events such as the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Feminists knew in 2016 that Bill Clinton was a predator and Hillary an enabler. 2016 simply happened to be an inopportune time to acknowledge this.
2017 is so much more convenient.