Hillary Clinton has refused to be drawn on the parallels between the scandal engulfing film producer Harvey Weinstein and that of her husband during his time as US president. The former US secretary of state and presidential hopeful was asked whether she was now more sympathetic to women coming forward with allegations about men in powerful positions.
She said that what happened to her husband when he was impeached and avoided being removed from office because of an affair he had with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky was in the past and instead criticised Donald Trump, the man who beat her to the White House.
The politician was in conversation with broadcaster Mariella Frostrup during an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote her new book, What Happened.
Ms Frostrup asked her: “You have described President Trump as a sexual assaulter and we have seen a lot in the news about Harvey Weinstein, a big Democrat supporter and a regular at the White House and now has been ejected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts.
“All of these stories seem to come to the same conclusion which is that powerful men use that power in ways that are not always seen as being sexually manipulative but actually are.
“I’m a feminist and a huge fan of yours and if you’ve ever let me down it’s been by not being sympathetic to the women that have talked about having been hit on by your husband, and in particular a young intern who was in a very vulnerable position.
“I just wonder now in the light of all the years, you feel more sympathetic?” Mrs Clinton replied: “That was a very difficult time during which my husband was held accountable, both personally and politically. I am not going to revisit it and relitigate it. It was all litigated.”
Miss Frostrup asked: “I am talking about as a woman, as a feminist, as probably the world’s most famous feminist…” Mrs Clinton replied: “Stories of the women coming forward now are reminders this is not limited to one person in one walk of life.
“It is so common and I think all of us have seen over the last 20 years how much more there has to be to support a story of the women coming forward.” Miss Frostrup went on: “I am asking you now is whether you would have responded in a slightly different way knowing, as you do now, women don’t often come forward because they are not believed.”
Mrs Clinton replied: “They are different circumstances and so let’s leave what happened then for history and all that we know from it because I do think that although each individual incident has to be judged on its own.
The pattern which is what I am focused on has to have a bright light shone upon it, so that it can be a focus of people not only supporting the women but sending a strong message to men, whether they are in power in Silicon Valley or powerful in entertainment or whatever that might be, that is too intolerable to people.
“I went through an election where a man admitted much worse than we often see and he talked about locker room talk and people that wanted to vote for him accepted it. “I don’t know if it is a turning point or not, I certainly hope it is. Young women, in particular, have to be given the confidence and the support not to be intimidated or fearful.
“The Trump example in the campaign, because you rarely get someone on tape admitting what they did, it could not have been any clearer. “His dismissal of it put him in a different category in lots of ways.”
Mrs Clinton said it was a problem to be seen as a successful woman. “For men, professional success and likeability go hand in hand. In other words, the more successful a man becomes the more people like him,” she said.
“For woman, it is the exact opposite. The more professionally successful we are, the less people like us.
“Women are also seen favourably when they advocate for others, unfavourably when we advocate for ourselves.”
She described herself as an “authentically a reserved person” and said she faced an election last year which was the first reality TV contest. “I am authentically someone who has watched, studied and known presidents and therefore have seen what they value is calmness and composure and a certain level of presentation so they wouldn’t scare the children watching on TV,” she said.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter how real you are unless you are dancing on a table, insulting people, using every rude thing you say to tear down political correctness instead of being polite, maybe all that’s gone.
“Barack Obama is a very controlled person, he talks slowly and thoughtfully and measures his words. When I do the same I am inauthentic.
“Part of that is being a woman because there is no overall image of what a woman president, commander in chief and head of state looks like. Woman are always judged more harshly.”
Mrs Clinton also criticised the role Russia played in the election of Mr Trump, saying it was the leaking of emails from her campaign chairman that lost her the White House. She said the “information warfare” launched by the Kremlin and the intervention of the FBI over her emails combined to create a “perfect storm”.
“What we learnt about Russian interference about the election is even more alarming. “It is a clear and present danger to western democracy and it is right out of (Vladimir) Putin’s playbook,” she said.
“The Russians are doing everything they can to turn Americans against each other.
“We are in the middle of a global struggle between liberal democracy and a rising tide of illiberalism and authoritarianism. “Putin has positioned himself as the leader of a xenophobic movement that wants to break up the EU, break up Nato, weaken the Atlantic alliance and undermine democracy.
“Russia’s weapons of choice are not the tanks and missiles, it is a new kind of cold war and it is just getting started. “In the 21st century wars will be increasingly fought in cyberspace and America, the UK and our allies need to approach this threat with new courage.”
She added: “There is no such thing as an ‘alternative fact’. “The Russian disinformation campaign was successful in part because American defences had been worn down over the years by powerful interests that wanted to make it harder to distinguish between fact and fiction.”
Mrs Clinton criticised Mr Trump’s denial of climate change in the face of scientific evidence and his refusal to accept how many people attended his inauguration as “insidious and divisive to democracy”. Later, Mrs Clinton appeared at the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival, where she was interviewed on the Royal Festival Hall stage by broadcaster Jim Naughtie.
Mrs Clinton said Mr Trump is “still trying to please Putin”, and got a laugh from the audience when she said she thinks that is because he “likes the whole authoritarian thing … you know, the bare chest”.
She added: “I think that’s his aspiration.”
Mr Naughtie asked Mrs Clinton about when she referred to Mr Trump as the “puppet” of Mr Putin during a presidential debate, and said to her that it did not seem that Mr Trump had understood her. Mrs Clinton drew laughter and applause from the audience when she replied: “That was not the first time.”
Asked about what she thinks Mr Trump thinks of her, she said: “I think he only thinks about himself.”
She said anyone who contradicts him or raises questions about him becomes his “adversary”, adding: “It’s a psychological need he has to dominate and demean people.”
The London Literature Festival runs to November 1.