She didn’t name names, but when Monica Lewinsky joined the viral online campaign against sexual harassment Sunday by retweeting #MeToo, the first person who came to mind was President Bill Clinton.
Therein lies the problem for the Clintons with the Harvey Weinstein sexual-harassment scandal: It hits perilously close to home.
Not only was Mr. Weinstein a political ally and a major donor to the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation, but his alleged sexual misconduct has refocused attention on Mr. Clinton’s own checkered past as the tide turns against powerful men who take advantage of women.
“The question is on everyone’s lips: how could we have let Weinstein’s crimes continue for so long? Yet there’s little in the Weinstein story—the years of whispers of impropriety, the past allegations by women, the intimate connection with a party that advertises itself as a defender of women—that doesn’t apply to Bill Clinton,” said Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic.
Another connection emerged Monday with reports that Mr. Weinstein gave the maximum $10,000 to Mr. Clinton while he was in the White House to fund his legal defense during the independent counsel’s perjury investigation related to his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
She was a 22-year-old White House intern and he was commander-in-chief when they had an affair, which she later described as a “mutual” relationship. Another three women—Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey—have accused him of sexual harassment or assault.
Other Hollywood bigwigs who helped Mr. Clinton cover the costs of his defense include Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas and Barbara Streisand, along with studio executives David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, according to the 1998 article in the Washington Post.
Mr. Katzenberg was among those in Hollywood who has denounced Mr. Weinstein after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment or assault.
“You have done terrible things to a number of women over a period of years,” said Mr. Katzenberg in an email to Mr. Weinstein that he released Friday. “I cannot in any way say this is OK with me … It’s not at all, and I am sickened by it, angry with you and incredibly disappointed in you.”
Other celebrities have since been accused of misconduct in what director Woody Allen—himself no stranger to sexual-abuse allegations—has warned could become a “witch-hunt atmosphere,” but so far Mr. Clinton has largely received a pass from Hollywood and the left.
Mr. Clinton’s name was notably missing when the feminist publication Jezebel cited “Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, R. Kelly, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump” as “not the only men who have allegedly abused women from positions of great power.”
One celebrity who did break ranks was chef Anthony Bourdain, who criticized Mrs. Clintons interview Thursday on CNN as “shameful in its deflection and disingenuousness,” sparking a backlash from Clinton supporters and aides
The right hasn’t held back. After actor George Clooney condemned Mr. Weinstein’s behavior by citing Mr. Ailes and Mr. Cosby, fellow actor James Woods came out swinging.
“Did you forget President #BillClinton, George? The power imbalance between him and a helpless intern is prima facie sexual harassment,” said Mr. Woods, an outspoken conservative, on Twitter.
Mrs. Clinton has moved to shift attention to President Trump, telling the BBC in a Friday interview that “we have someone admitting to being a sexual assaulter in the Oval Office.”
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski didn’t let the comment slide, noting that Mr. Clinton ended up paying $850,000 to settle the Paula Jones case and resigned from the Supreme Court bar rather than face disbarment for lying under oath.
“There was a sexual assaulter in the White House. He was called Bill Clinton,” Mr. Lewandowski said on Fox News, adding, “That’s the sexual assaulter she should be talking about in the White House.”
Asked by the BBC about her dismissal of allegations against her husband by multiple women, Mrs. Clinton replied, “That has all been litigated.”
“That was the subject of a huge investigation as you might recall in the late ‘90s and there were conclusions drawn. That was clearly in the past,” she said.
In a Thursday interview, Mrs. Clinton blasted Mr. Weinstein’s alleged behavior as “intolerable in every way,” admitting that she would probably have considered him a friend.
The Clintons had rented a house in the Hamptons next to Mr. Weinstein’s vacation home, and Mrs. Clinton has been frequently photographed with the former head of the Weinstein Company over the years.
“People who never spoke out before having the courage to speak out just clearly demonstrates that this behavior that he engaged in cannot be tolerated,” Mrs. Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren accused the former First Lady of hypocrisy.
“The funniest thing about her comment there is that she finds this intolerable,” Ms. Lahren said Sunday on Fox’s “Watters’ World.” “Um, you’re still married to Bill. Apparently, you don’t find these things that intolerable.”
Actress Alyssa Milano launched the #MeToo hashtag on Sunday, unleashing a flood of retweets from women who included stars Debra Messing and Anna Paquin, as well as liberal groups like Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March.
Also retweeting was conservative radio host Dana Loesch, who said she spent her weekend “preparing to move due to repeated threats from gun control advocates.”
More than a dozen women have said they were pressured for sex or harassed by Mr. Weinstein over a period spanning nearly two decades, including three who told the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow that he raped them.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Weinstein has denied allegations of “nonconsensual sex” and said that “there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
“Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path,” said spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister in a statement last week.
He was expelled Saturday from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which said in a statement that it hoped to “send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”