The Slatest

Hillary Clinton Decides Minutes Before the State of the Union Is the Ideal Time to Express Regret for How She Handled Sexual Harassment Complaint

Hillary Clinton sexual harassment complaint
Clinton said she would handle it differently if she had to do it over again.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Just 15 minutes before Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, Hillary Clinton posted a message on her Facebook page addressing a New York Times story that reported she had personally protected one of her senior advisers during her 2008 campaign after he was accused of sexually harassing a staffer.

In the post, Clinton expressed regret for her actions, saying, “If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”

At Clinton’s request, the accused advisor was docked pay and had to agree to counseling. The woman who accused him was reassigned. “He needed to be punished, change his behavior, and understand why his actions were wrong,” Clinton wrote in the post. “The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe. I thought both could happen without him losing his job. I believed the punishment was severe and the message to him unambiguous.”

She went on to say that she “believe[d] in second chances” but implied the staffer, who would later be fired from another job for inappropriate behavior, did not deserve one. “Would he have done better—been better—if I had fired him? Would he have gotten that next job? There is no way I can go back 10 years and know the answers. But you can bet I’m asking myself these questions right now.”

She said she reached out the staffer who made the accusation and that she “was glad that her accusations were taken seriously” and said “for the remainder of the campaign, she flourished in her new role.”

Clinton proceeded to defend her campaign.

It was reassuring to hear that she felt supported back then – and that all these years later, those feelings haven’t changed. That again left me glad that my campaign had in place a comprehensive process for dealing with complaints. The fact that the woman involved felt heard and supported reinforced my belief that the process worked – at least to a degree.

And she proceeded to defend her decision by placing it in the context of the Times, while also reserving a dig at the Times. Glenn Thrush, a prominent Times reporter who was accused of sexual misconduct before he joined the Times, was suspended in November. The Times announced in December it would not fire Thrush, but instead extend his suspension and reassign him from his beat covering the Trump administration.

[M]any employers would be well served to take actions at least as severe when confronted with problems now – including the very media outlet that broke this story. They recently opted to suspend and reinstate one of their journalists who exhibited similarly inappropriate behavior, rather than terminate him. A decade from now, that decision may not look as tough as it feels today. The norms around sexual harassment will likely have continued to change as swiftly and significantly in the years to come as they have over the years until now.

She praised the #MeToo moment and came close to apologizing when she wrote, “we can acknowledge that even those of us who have spent much of our life thinking about gender issues and who have firsthand experiences of navigating a male-dominated industry or career may not always get it right.”