Politics & Policy

Why Do Women Have to Shout to Get Hillary to Hear Them on Sexual Assault?

(Scott Olson/Getty)

While giving a speech at the University of Iowa this past September, Hillary Clinton made a sacred vow to all victims of sexual assault. “I want to send a message to all of the survivors,” she boldly declared. “Don’t let anyone silence your voice, you have the right to be heard, the right be believed, and we are with you as you go forward.”

This message also appears on her home website and has been tweeted out from her official account, accompanied by a video of Clinton in which she reiterates her vow to sexual-assault survivors.

It’s a somewhat startling shift away from laughing off an accused rapist, as one rape survivor says Clinton did when she was defending in court the man who raped her when she was twelve years old. As reported in the Daily Beast (the Free Beacon broke the story):

On audiotapes from the 1980s, Clinton, who speaks in a Southern drawl, appears to acknowledge that she was aware of her client’s guilt, brags about successfully getting the only piece of physical evidence thrown out of court, and laughs about it all whimsically.

In the same light-hearted vein, Clinton has long brushed aside the “bimbo eruptions” that have plagued her husband throughout his career. It’s all par for the course as Hillary Clinton attempts to capitalize on a campaign theme of female empowerment and fighting the eternal patriarchy.

What neither Mrs. Clinton nor her husband planned on was that a vocal minority would forcefully break through a fortified media wall and confront her on her hypocrisy.

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Last weekend, during a question-and-answer session at a town hall, Hillary was confronted by sexual-assault victim and advocate, New Hampshire state representative Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien. When Clinton turned her mic over to the audience, Prudhomme-O’Brien stood up and tried to get her attention. Clinton abruptly scolded O’Brien, telling her, “You are very rude, and I’m not ever going to call on you.” This rebuke prompted cheers from the audience.

Almost immediately, media attention turned to the person asking the question and ignored the questions themselves. Prudhomme-O’Brien was instantaneously branded a heckler and a disrupter. Tweets from reporters and journalists lauded Clinton’s deft ability in shutting her down. Online sources such as HuffPo painted Hillary as a political pop diva just going BAE on all that noise.

A news reporter for NBC, a network that paid Chelsea Clinton $600,000 to interview a puppet for a show hosted by a serial fabulist, tweeted out the public website of Prudhomme-O’Brien, with her home address and phone number. In an on-camera interview with Prudhomme-O’Brien at the end of Clinton’s New Hampshire rally, CNN notified viewers that she was a Republican representative and asked whether her questions were motivated simply by partisan desire to make Hillary Clinton look bad.

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It’s true that Prudhomme-O’Brien is a state GOP lawmaker. But, according to Mrs. Clinton’s own standards, so what? She is a rape survivor and a passionate advocate. She is exactly the type of woman who must not be silenced, according to Hillary’s bold declaration, not even by her own cheering crowds.

In typical shoot-the-messenger fashion, the media narrative focused on who Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien was and where she was from. If this all sounds eerily familiar from a not-too-distant past, it’s because it is. The Washington Post reported that Prudhomme-O’Brien has followed Clinton around for years, implying that she’s a frantic stalker (à la Lewinsky), simply out for attention, or that Bill Clinton’s “sexual improprieties” are somehow just “alleged,” as CNN phrased it in its story on Prudhomme-O’Brien.

#share#This is the same Clinton playbook used almost a quarter-century ago, when Clintons’ minions unleashed the hounds on anyone who questioned Bill Clinton’s personal conduct with the many women who charged him with harassment and worse. The problem for the Clintons is that we no longer live in an old media landscape, where nagging questions of sexual misconduct and possible criminal activity might merit a mention on network news or a paragraph in a paper, only to be tossed out and ignored until the next day’s news cycle — or for good. This is the social-media age: Elites can’t bury voters’ concerns in the back pages of the New York Times.

If Hillary Clinton want to use Facebook and Twitter to help us face the tough truths about sexual assault, then she is going to have to answer questions on these issues from millions of users who have as much access to these media as she does.

Hillary tells victims of rape and sexual abuse not to let anyone silence their voices. Then she castigates a rape survivor for being rude.

Hillary Clinton tells victims of rape and sexual abuse not to let anyone silence their voices. Then she castigates a rape survivor for being rude. And, apparently, women cannot question her about Bill’s conduct and her years of covering and lying for him. All this to the delight and cheers of Clinton’s audience. Prudhomme-O’Brien, refusing to be silenced, told the New Hampshire Union Leader: “I was just trying to be no more obnoxious than I needed to be. I wouldn’t get that message out if I was trying to be polite.”

And herein lies the dilemma for Hillary Clinton: Why do victims of sexual assault feel as though they need to shout at her to be heard? And when those voices do make themselves heard, as she has encouraged them to do, why does Mrs. Clinton, with an assist from the media, abruptly silence them?

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Donald Trump may be an imperfect messenger, but the question must be asked: Why does it take someone like him to get our media and Hillary Clinton to hear victims of rape and sexual assault when they are not politically aligned with her? Why should a victim and rape advocate — a lone dissenter in a hostile crowd — have to resort to shouting and waving her arms at Hillary to get her to address accusations, while her surrogates play the “war on women” card from Twitter accounts and morning-cable shows?

Just yesterday, media were hoping to roll out Bill Clinton and bask in the nostalgia as though he had just stepped onto the Millennium Falcon for the first time in 25 years and declared, “Carvie, we’re home!” But at the conclusion of Bill’s first stop for the campaign’s “Party Like It’s 1992” tour, an ABC reporter asked him about Donald Trump’s statements on Clinton’s past sexual misconduct and rape allegations.

#related#​Clinton seemed taken aback and speechless for a moment; then he gave a generic answer about the Republican field, and he affirmed his confidence in his wife. That a young reporter from a friendly network could even consider asking such a thing apparently shocked the Big Dog. This is a new media landscape and a new election, and thus far the Clintons look tone-deaf and flat-footed in deploying outdated tactics in an attempt to dispatch equally old questions of executive misconduct.

Except this time the questions aren’t going away. If Hillary Clinton thinks that Bill Clinton’s personal antics, and her own for that matter, while they occupied the White House almost 25 years ago are not fair game, she might want to reconsider — based on how her campaign town halls and rallies are going so far.  

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