Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too movement, said she disagrees with Hillary Clinton’s assessment that the infamous affair between former President Bill Clinton and then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky was not an abuse of power.
“You’re talking about an age dynamic but you’re also talking about the president of the United States,” Burke told The Root in an interview published Tuesday evening. “The amount of power, the amount of accumulated power that is in that position alone, versus an intern.”
“It’s absolutely an abuse of power,” she added. “It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t used as a moment to be accountable.”
Hillary Clinton said Sunday during an interview with CBS that her husband was right to not resign over his affair with Lewinsky, adding that the relationship was not an abuse of power. Bill Clinton was 49 years old when he started having an affair with Lewinsky, who was 22. Their consensual relationship lasted from 1995 to 1997, and was publicly revealed in 1998.
Burke, who created the Me Too movement over a decade ago, told The Root it was “tragic” and “wrong” that the former first lady wouldn’t call her husband’s actions in the late 1990s an abuse of power.
“The affair and what happened was consensual and I recognize that. I think we all recognize that,” she said. “Monica herself has said that this was consensual, but it certainly is an abuse of power.”
Hillary Clinton stood by her husband when he was impeached in 1998 for lying about his relationship with Lewinsky. The Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove him from office the following year.
Burke added that 20 years should be enough time for Hillary Clinton, a champion of the Me Too movement, to admit that something was not right about an affair between the president of the United States and a White House intern.
“I think now, 20 years down the road, it’s OK to say, ‘This was an abuse of power. It doesn’t mean that he had to step down from his position, but it was an abuse of power that I’m sure he regrets,’” Burke said. “There’s nothing wrong with saying that.”