Speed Reads

History lessons

Here's how Hillary Clinton responded to Bill's 1990s infidelities

Before Donald Trump suggested that Hillary Clinton had not been "loyal to Bill," the well-telegraphed line of attack regarding Bill Clinton and infidelities was supposed to be about how Hillary Clinton aggressively defended Bill from his female accusers and paramours in the 1990s. On Sunday, The New York Times took a long look at what role Clinton actually played in defending her husband from her accusers, following a similar look back in The Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton did not say too much publicly about Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Monica Lewinsky, the three most public sex scandals of Bill Clinton's presidency. She said Flowers has "got lots of problems" on Arsenio Hall in 1992, and in an ABC News interview called her "some failed cabaret singer who doesn't even have much of a résumé to fall back on"; in a private conversation with her late friend Diane Blair, according to Blair's diary, Clinton said she believed Bill had tried to break things off with "narcissistic loony toon" Lewinsky.

Behind the scenes, it's less than clear what role Clinton played, other than that she assented to the Clinton campaign's strategy of hiring private investigator Jack Palladino to dig into the history of Bill's accusers. According to friends, she knew Bill had been unfaithful before but thought he had overcome his infidelity issues by the late 1980s. "You've got to believe that Hillary Clinton wanted to protect her husband and thought he was being unfairly charged," Mickey Kantor, Clinton's 1992 campaign chairman, tells The New York Times. "Does she know more today than she did then? Of course."

Trump and his advocates accuse Clinton of being an "enabler" of her husband's infidelity — an interesting charge, given Trump's own marital history. Hillary Clinton's campaign called the allegations old and well-tread history and released statements from James Lyons, the lawyer to whom Palladino answered, and James Carville, Bill Clinton's top 1992 strategist. Lyons said that Hillary Clinton "was not involved in hiring" Palladino, and Carville said that "Hillary wanted us to defend the governor against attacks," but that "it's just ridiculous to imagine that she was somehow directing our response operation. That was my job, not hers." You can read more at The New York Times and The Washington Post.