(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Kirsten Gillibrand bets Democrats want to move from Bill and Hillary Clinton

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is striking out on her own, and getting out of the Clinton shadow


Matthew Sheffield
November 17, 2017 4:51PM (UTC)

After Bernie Sanders found unexpected success in last year’s Democratic presidential primaries by heavily criticizing some of the policies of former president Bill Clinton, it’s starting to look like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has decided to follow down a similar path.

But instead of taking aim only at Clinton’s policies, Gillibrand criticized the former president for having a sexual relationship with a White House intern.

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“Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,” Gillibrand said during an interview with the New York Times podcast “The New Washington” when asked about whether she believed that Clinton should have resigned after it was revealed that he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Gillibrand made those remarks in the context of the growing movement to expose sexual harassment, which has emerged after film mogul Harvey Weinstein was revealed to have engaged in numerous acts of sexual misconduct and intimidated his victims. Gillibrand also argued that the numerous allegations that many women have leveled against President Donald Trump need to receive fresh scrutiny.

“We should have a very different conversation about President Trump and a very different conversation about allegations against him than is currently — than what has been had to date,” Gillibrand argued.

In comments to the Times after the interview, a Gillibrand representative indicated that her remarks were meant in the context of if Clinton’s actions had occurred today.

Philippe Reines, a long-time aide to Clinton’s wife Hillary lashed out at Gillibrand on Twitter, calling her a “hypocrite” and claiming that Gillibrand’s remarks had doomed any chances she had of running for president in 2020.

Also in the interview, Gillibrand criticized Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a radio host.

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“It’s very disturbing,” she said. “I was very disappointed. But it’s important that survivors are coming out and speaking truth to power and telling their stories.” Gillibrand has said previously that she will be donating all monies she received from Franken's political action committee to Protect Our Defenders, an organization which helps people who have been sexually assaulted while serving in the military.

Gillibrand’s critical comment about Clinton was not the first time that she has begun becoming her own political force. Since entering Congress, she has made stopping sexual harassment one of her signature issues. Gillibrand stepped up those efforts on Wednesday when she and a group of senators and congresspeople introduced the “ME TOO Congress Act” after the recent social media hashtag where thousands of women and men have shared their stories of being harmed by sexual misconduct.

The legislation, which is being presented in both houses of Congress, seeks to streamline the process for reporting harassment complaints and also to make lawmakers have to pay any legal settlement costs incurred from their alleged behavior. At present, claims of this nature are paid from the federal treasury.

Gillibrand has also begun playing a more active role in campaign endorsements, backing a challenger to Rep. Dan Lipinski, a socially conservative Democrat from Illinois who has actually campaigned for Republicans.

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Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via m.sheffield@salon.com or follow him on Twitter.

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