Former President Bill Clinton, in a recent discussion with PBS about former Senator Al Franken, noted changing “norms” about “what you can do to somebody against their will.”
Clinton, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct dating back decades, said he thought it was a “good thing that we should all have higher standards.”
Franken, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, resigned from office in 2017 following multiple claims of sexual misconduct and a backlash from some Democrats.
“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 said, according to a clip posted by RealClearPolitics. “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.”
The comments were met with wide criticism.
"This guy... Bill Clinton perhaps you should just stop talking. This is gross!" conservative commentator Kayleigh McEnany tweeted.
"Old Bill Clinton asserting in his own way 'I'm a terrible person but you elected me twice' is the most honest Bill Clinton," former MSNBC producer Matt Stoller replied to Burns' tweet.
"Saying the quiet part loud," Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay tweeted.
Clinton's office later released a statement regarding the remarks.
"He was not suggesting that there was ever a time that it was acceptable to do something against someone’s will," said Angel Urena, Clinton's press secretary. "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."
The comments come on the heels of controversial remarks the 42nd president made last week in regard to his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In that NBC interview, Clinton got defensive when asked about Lewinsky and went on to say that he didn’t owe her an apology. He later apologized.
Also in the interview with PBS, Clinton said the Franken situation was “for me, was a difficult case, a hard case.”
“There may be things I don’t know. But I — 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," he said.
“Too late to wade into it now,” he continued. “I mean, I think it’s a grievous thing to take away from the people a decision they have made, especially when there is an election coming up again. But it’s done now.
“And I think that all of us should just be focusing on how to do better and how to go forward.”