Democrats in disarray over sexual misconduct allegations

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 17, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


FORMER SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-CONN.: Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral. And it is harmful for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children.

THEN-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: Thank you, everyone. And thank you for welcoming the president of the United States.

STEINHAUER, NEW YORK TIMES: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time given the allegations?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: Yes, I think that is the appropriate response. But I think things changed today. And I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: There's a very different reaction across the board now in the environment we are in when it comes to sexual harassment. This is a Democrat New York senator who previously obviously praised President Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand saying "Today I'm honored to be traveling around New York with President Clinton, campaigning for Hillary Clinton, letting New Yorkers know why I am with her as Dems in Philly," the Democrat Convention, "gathered to nominate our next president," kicked off DNC in Philadelphia with former president Clinton. Then a former Hillary Clinton aide tweeted this, "Ken Starr spent $70 million on a consensual -- job. Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC but not enough for you, Senator Gillibrand. Over 20 years you took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for the 2020 primaries. Best of luck." It's just an interesting time.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief of The Weekly Standard; Erin McPike, White House correspondent for The Independent Journal Review, and Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times. Charlie?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, let's see, the Clinton I think era is officially over. It turns out that Ken Starr and the evil Republicans of the 1990s and Joe Lieberman of that clip, they were all right at the time, and the Democratic Party is coming around to admitting that.

I do think that Philippe Reines has a bit of a point. It's sort of an odd timing to hear Senator Gillibrand come out now after 20 years of enjoying the political largess of the Clintons when it's so safe to come out and do this now. And then the follow-up where she seems to walk it back a little bit. And if you look at the "New York Times" article she had someone call them back to make sure that she walked it back a little bit to say, oh, but it was a different time. No, that's not an answer. What Bill Clinton did 20 years ago was terrible, and it was terrible in those times just as it would be terrible in these times.

BAIER: All right, there's a lot of accusations about what-aboutism, that there's the looking back at this time because there are allegations against Senator Roy Moore and obviously the allegations and accusers who are talking about president and then candidate Trump. Chris Hayes tweeted "As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right's what about Bill Clinton's stuff is, it's also true that the Democrats and the center-left are overdue for a real reckoning for the allegations against him." There have been now multiple articles, Erin, about this reckoning, that suddenly this realism has suddenly hit people.

ERIN MCPIKE, THE INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: The funny thing is neither party is immune to this, and that is the important thing. Everybody is trying to figure out what the model is for how you respond to these things. I would put out that when Mitch McConnell became majority leader his staff put together a guide book on how they respond to individual members' crises, and he dealt with a number of them. You remember John Ensign in 2009 went through his extramarital affair and later resigned. Every scandal that came out, the McConnell operation knew how to respond.

This is different. These harassment scandals are a very different breed of problem, and both parties are trying to figure out how to cope it. And clearly they haven't come up, either party hasn't come up with a good model yet, and that's what we're seeing everybody sort through right now.

BAIER: It seems like I'm using Twitter every second, but this was an interesting exchange. Chelsea Handler, a known Democratic supporter, and Juanita Broaddrick, Chelsea Handler, "Imagine being molested by an older man, then that man denies ever doing it, then goes on, gets elected to the United States Senate. What kind of message does that send to young girls everywhere and to all the men who abuse women?" obviously she is there referring to Senator Moore and the allegations. Juanita Broaddrick tweets back, "Yes, Chelsea Handler, I can imagine. I was raped by the Arkansas attorney general who then becomes governor and president, and NBC held my interview explaining the rape until after his impeachment hearing. But I'm sure you don't want to go there." Chelsea Handler, "I am sorry I'm just seeing this. You are right and I apologize to you for not knowing your story. Democrats along with Republicans and the rest of the world's political parties all need to do better and respect the firsthand accounts of victims. I believe you."

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Remember, that was an issue during the campaign. There was a lot of discussion about Juanita Broaddrick and the accusations, incredible accusations that she has leveled back then and repeated during the campaign, and she wasn't believed at the time. People were believing accusers based on party affiliations rather than the substance or credibility of the allegations.

This is the ultimate Washington hypocrisy story. Everybody on every side pointing fingers in every different direction, people choosing teams because of political parties. You saw what Al Franken had said about President Trump. You now have seen what President Trump has done to respond. President Trump has been accused I think credibly by a number of women on his own and who admitted on tape to doing some of the things, or at least being aggressive. This is why people don't like Washington. This is what this is. It's just finger pointing in every direction at everybody based on partisanship.

HURT: Is there some credit to be given to Republicans who haven't done that with Roy Moore. Almost from the very first allegations, they came out despite it being a problem for them politically and across the board denounced him. And I think that's probably a step in the right direction.

BAIER: For the most part. There is obviously a corner of the party.

HURT: Sure. The Republican leadership wasted no time in saying we don't want anything to do with this.

BAIER: And do you see it differently. Obviously innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but in a political race that is pending December 12th, it's a different scenario?

HURT: You can't force the guy out. It is up to the Alabama voters at this point.

MCPIKE: I think that's exactly right. Sarah Sanders said that just yesterday.

But when it comes to Al Franken, too, I covered his 2008 Senate race. And back then this particular thing wasn't out at the time, but everyone knew that he made rape jokes. And that was part of his past. And that was something that was discussed in that race at the time, and Minnesota still sent him to the Senate, albeit barely, but they did.

BAIER: But see, I pointed out yesterday, had this allegation came out in 2006, 2007, the 225 vote margin that he wins by over Norm Coleman changes the trajectory of the U.S. Senate.

MCPIKE: It absolutely might have, yes.

BAIER: I want to play this sound bite from the White House. Asked about the president weighing in on Franken and not on Moore.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was covered pretty extensively during the campaign. We addressed it then. The American people I think spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is this different?

SANDERS: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.


BAIER: That's the difference between the accusers of then candidate Trump, now President Trump and Al Franken, weighing in on that. But he also hasn't fully addressed the Roy Moore issue one-on-one. He has gone through a spokesman and said they are troubling and if true he should step down.

HAYES: Yes, but he was very quick to jump on the criticism of Al Franken. And he hasn't -- "The Washington Post" report, the I think devastating, very credible "Washington Post" report sources to four women on the record in great detail, women who didn't know each other, I thought established very clearly early that these were credible accusations made against Roy Moore, and President has Trump avoided stepping in.

BAIER: So does he get out, Roy Moore, stay in and fight it, what happens?

HAYES: I think he stays.

BAIER: Al Franken, what is to investigate?

HURT: I don't know. I guess it's probably something going into the ethics committee in order to die because I can't imagine what more --

BAIER: He has admitted to it. There are pictures of it. And now it's going to an investigation in Senate ethics committee?

MCPIKE: I think he wants to show there is nothing more there, to clear his name.

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