It looks like the MSNBC-Republican syndrome is starting to affect Joe Watkins, Alex Witt’s go-to GOP strategist now that Susan Del Percio has left the network. On Saturday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, Watkins joined his more liberal colleagues in defending the Clintons from Monica Lewinsky’s re-emergence in Vanity Fair.
When asked his opinion of the whole matter, the strategist made it clear he was tired of the story. He erupted:
I hate to keep rehashing this story. It's not fair to President Clinton. It's certainly not fair to Hillary Clinton. She had nothing to do with this. She was the victim, if anything, and I thought she handled it with grace and poise.
First of all, how can anyone, much less a GOP strategist, claim that it’s unfair to Bill Clinton to bring up the Monica Lewinsky scandal? It was one of the defining moments of his presidency, and he was the wrongdoer. It was Clinton who created the scandal by inappropriately taking advantage of a young intern and subsequently denying it under oath.
Second, why is a Republican strategist saying Hillary Clinton was the victim? If anyone was the victim, it was Lewinsky. And Mrs. Clinton "had nothing to do with this"? She lied to help her husband cover up the scandal for several months. Watkins’ defense of the Clintons made him sound more like a Democratic strategist than a GOP one.
Witt kicked off the Lewinsky discussion by asking a very odd question about the former intern. Addressing MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor, Witt asked, “[I]s there any room to be sympathetic toward her plight and that this exercise could be cathartic [sic] for her?”
All three of Witt’s panelists – Watkins, Taylor, and Democratic strategist Zerlina Maxwell – did have room to be sympathetic toward Lewinsky’s plight. However, they all dismissed the idea that it could hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chances in 2016. MSNBC contributors seem to be unable to admit that anything might be a problem for Mrs. Clinton heading into a presidential campaign.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
ALEX WITT: We're talking about Monica Lewinsky's new interview with Vanity Fair, Goldie. So first I’m going to ask you, is there any room to be sympathetic toward her plight and that this exercise could be cathartic for her?
GOLDIE TAYLOR: You know, I’ve long believed that Monica Lewinsky certainly has a right to her own story. I am not very much older than she is. I have daughters who are about that same age now, and I am going to hope that they understand how to comport themselves when they are presented to be in environments like that. But if they don't, as their mother, I'm going to fight for them with every ounce of my being. Does she have a right to her own story? Absolutely. Is it relevant in this current political environment? Absolutely not.
WITT: Vanity Fair points out that Lewinsky has remained silent for the past decade. She says her goal now is, quote, “is to get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.” So Zerlina, do you think that’s the only reason why she chose to go public with this story now, to further her causes?
ZERLINA MAXWELL: Well, certainly I think that might have been in her calculation, and obviously the editors of Vanity Fair are thinking about 2016 and how this story will fit into the narrative of Hillary Clinton running. And I do think that there is a very big problem with cyber-bullying right now. I can't imagine if Twitter and all of the social media platforms that were used to harass folks were around back when Monica Lewinsky was blowing up on the Drudge Report.
WITT: Well, she talks about that, she says it would be even worse, exponentially so.
MAXWELL: Absolutely. I'm agreeing with her on that point. But like Goldie said, this is not relevant in terms of a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign because it was her husband’s affair, not hers. So if you're going to cast her under this big shadow, then I think that you're trolling in a little bit of sexism there.
WITT: Well, hold that thought, because I’m going to ask you a little bit more detail about that. But Joe, what's your thought on all this?
JOE WATKINS: Well, my thought on all this is that I’m just so sorry that it’s coming out again. I mean, I thought this was a very old story and certainly it was unfortunate when it happened. I feel bad for Monica Lewinsky. I hope she gets a chance to move on with her life and to do other things. But I hate to keep rehashing this story. It's not fair to President Clinton. It's certainly not fair to Hillary Clinton. She had nothing to do with this. She was the victim, if anything, and I thought she handled it with grace and poise. And it won't have any impact on her campaign for the presidency if she chooses to run. I’m just sorry that it surfaced again.