Bill Clinton's questionable sexual behavior is no secret. But reports of his infamous infidelities often overlook the fact that the former president has been accused of committing sexual assault. While these allegations may not include or indict Hillary Clinton, several GOP political figures argue they do affect her recent support for campus sexual assault survivors.
Hillary Clinton's recent statement that all survivors should be "believed until disproved" was called into question on Sunday and Monday by several Republicans, including presidential candidate Rand Paul. This statement, they argued, is incompatible with her failure to publicly demonstrate she believes previous allegations against her husband.
Clinton's support. "It is not enough to condemn campus sexual assault," Clinton said at a "Women for Hillary" event in Cedar Falls, Iowa, NBC News reported in September. "We need to end campus sexual assault."
The candidate promised she'd fight for "comprehensive, confidential and coordinated" support on campuses across the country, according to the same report.
But Rep. Katherine Prudhomme O'Brien (R-N.H.) took issue with Clinton's support for these survivors. Although Clinton quickly dismissed the representative as "rude," O'Brien made her opposition known at a town hall event in the state on Sunday, questioning how Clinton could advocate for believing survivors when she has previously ignored the allegations that women such as Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey have made against her own husband, Bill Clinton.
"I asked her how in the world she can say that Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey are lying," O'Brien told CNN on Sunday. "She says that rape victims should be believed. I agree with her, that is true, they should be believed and we should assess what they are saying."
Paul's allegations. O'Brien recently found support for her opposition, too. When a Boston radio station host asked him about the controversy, Paul agreed with the New Hampshire representative. While Paul acknowledged Bill Clinton's actions themselves were not "necessarily her fault," he did suggest Hillary Clinton's call to support and believe all survivors is hypocritical.
"Can she be this champion of women who were victims of sexual abuse, except when it applies to her husband. I think it's difficult for her," Paul told the host, ThinkProgress reported Monday.
A broader problem. While Clinton — as well as any other candidate — should be held accountable for acting consistently with their purported values, the focus on Clinton's supposed personal hypocrisy distracts from the bigger issue at hand, and the ultimate truth of her sentiment: The reality that sexual assault survivors are still persistently, routinely doubted and discredited — especially on college campuses.
A 2015 survey of more than 150,000 students at 27 universities across the country revealed that 23.1% have experienced nonconsensual sexual contact, according to the Association of American Universities. Despite its pervasiveness, however, college campuses still overwhelmingly fail to adequately address the issue, and still deny that it happens at all: 91% of the 11,000 colleges that disclosed annual crime data reported there were zero incidences of rape on their campuses in 2014, according to a 2015 American Association of University Women report.
It's an issue that must not only be addressed on campuses, but in the highest ranks of the federal government, too. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) argued in a 2014 Time op-ed on the topic, "Lax oversight [on the federal level] has the perverse effect of incentivizing colleges to encourage non-reporting, under-reporting and noncompliance with the already weak standards under current federal law."
Clinton's public call to prioritize this issue as a political matter, therefore, is highly necessary — and one all candidates, including Clinton herself, would do well to fully commit to addressing. As CNN reported Clinton told survivors of sexual assault in September: "Don't let anyone silence your voice. You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed and we're with you."
h/t Think Progress