Former President Bill Clinton suggested the “norms have changed” in society for what “you can do to somebody against their will” in response to a question about former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation from Congress following sexual harassment allegations.
“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,” Clinton told PBS Newshour in an interview that aired Thursday. “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.”
Clinton’s remarks come amidst a series of media appearances promoting a new book he co-authored with legendary novelist James Patterson. Last Monday, he had to clarify remarks he made to NBC, where he defended himself from criticism of his 1995 affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
PBS Newshour host Judy Woodruff had asked Clinton about Franken, who resigned from Congress in January amid allegations that he touched women inappropriately. Clinton, himself, has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and rape, which he has denied.
Angel Urena, a Clinton spokesman, responded to Clinton’s comment by telling CNN the former president “was asked about a particular case, period.”
“It’s clear from the context,” Urena said. “He was not suggesting that there was ever a time that it was acceptable to do something against someone’s will. He’s saying that norms have changed in a variety of ways in how we interact with one another, and that’s all for the good.”
In his interview with PBS, Clinton called Franken’s situation a “difficult case” and questioned one of the accusations leveled at Franken, a former comedian.
“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, and that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question,” Clinton told PBS, referring to the dozens of women, former and current SNL staff members, who issued a statement in support of Franken.
In an essay she penned for Vanity Fair in February, Lewinsky re-evaluated her affair with Clinton, writing that she’s beginning to “consider the implications of power differentials” and entertaining the “notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
Clinton, who was impeached and faced removal from the presidency, told NBC last week he “did the right thing” in remaining in office after the Lewinsky scandal and he does not owe Lewinsky a personal apology because he’s already apologized in public.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.