Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand criticized the U.S. Armed Forces, saying, “The military still does not take these cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment seriously.”
ALBANY, N.Y. — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Bill Clinton resigning during the Monica Lewinsky affair would have been the “appropriate response.”
Gillibrand, who succeeded Hillary Clinton as New York’s junior senator in 2009, told The New York Times on Thursday that under the circumstances, Clinton should have left office after his inappropriate relationship with the intern was uncovered in 1998.
“Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,” Gillibrand, who first paused and then responded, according to The Times. “But I think things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances, there should be a very different reaction.”
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The comments raised eyebrows across the country because the Democratic senator has talked fondly of the Clintons and her role in succeeding Hillary Clinton in New York.
But Gillibrand also has talked forcefully about changing the culture in the military, in Congress and in society when it comes to sexual harassment. Gillibrand also is considered a prospective presidential candidate in 2020.
She added, “I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump and a very different conversation about allegations against him than what has been had to date.”
Gillibrand’s comment drew a strong rebuke on Twitter from Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman, Philippe Reines, and The Times said a Gillibrand spokesman later sought to clarify that she was trying to point out that in today’s climate, Bill Clinton’s action wouldn’t have been tolerated.
Reines blasted Gillibrand, saying she has long benefited from the Clintons’ help.
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“Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC. But not enough for you @SenGillibrand?” he wrote. “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”
On Wednesday, Gillibrand was among federal lawmakers who introduced a bipartisan bill to better allow people to report cases of sexual abuse in Congress.
She told The Times that one step would be to elect more women to office.
“Lives are destroyed, and it has to change,” Gillibrand said “And one of the reasons why I fight so hard for women in leadership is I think if you change the players list in all of these institutions, you’re going to change the climate.”
Joseph Spector writes for Gannett’s Albany (N.Y.) Bureau. Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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