Trump Attacks Hillary Clinton Through Her Husband's Infidelities | NBC Connecticut
Decision 2016

Decision 2016

Full coverage of the race for the White House

Trump Attacks Hillary Clinton Through Her Husband's Infidelities

Bill Clinton made the case for his wife at the Democratic National Convention, but Trump wants to remind everyone of Clinton's seamier side



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    Hillary and Bill Clinton acknowledge the crowd during a primary night rally at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, June 7, 2016, in Brooklyn.

    Donald Trump is running against Hillary Clinton, not her husband, but he has not shied from attacking the former president over his sexual misconduct.

    He accused Bill Clinton of rape during an interview in May with Fox News' Sean Hannity, tweeted that Clinton was "the WORST abuser of women in U.S. political history" and called Hillary Clinton an enabler who tried to destroy the women with whom her husband had affairs.

    Democrats turned to the former president to make a case for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday -- and he did, not only as a fighter for children and families, but also as his wife.

    "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl," he began, and went on to describe trying to convince her to marry him.

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    "We've been walking and talking and laughing together ever since," he said. "And we've done it in good times and bad, through joy and heartbreak….We've built up a lifetime of memories."

    But Trump wants to remind everyone of Clinton's seamier side and by Wednesday had said: "He left out the most interesting chapter. I won't get into that. The chapter that I really waited for -- because it was really boring -- the chapter I waited for, I never heard. And he left it out."

    Trump's impassioned supporters and the many Clinton haters among them might approve, but the Republican nominee is struggling to appeal to women. How will they react to denigrating Hillary Clinton over her husband's infidelities?

    Oda Tejeba, a Democrat from Queens, New York, who said she would vote for Clinton, does not like it. She called the line of attack petty.

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    "That’s like a sucker hit," Tejeba said.

    "She was humiliated publicly," she said of Clinton. "If she can get past that, she can do anything."

    But Elizabeth Smith, an Ohio alternate delegate for Gov. John Kasich at the Republican National Convention last week, said that if she thought Hillary Clinton were an outstanding candidate with whom she agreed on other issues, she would probably dismiss the infidelities. As it is, the Clintons' behavior is a nagging problem for her.

    "You can go back and see whether she was instrumental or not," said Smith, a civil trial lawyer who said she would probably vote for Trump because she wanted to support the Republicans. "They trashed Monica Lewinsky."

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    Smith said she did not excuse the behavior of Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom Bill Clinton had a relationship, but noted that she was only 22 at the time. 

    "[Hillary Clinton's] a smart woman," Smith said. "They talk. Hillary could have done something to pull back on that and they could have pushed it aside but the fact that they didn't as a team tells me something."

    Polls show a striking gender gap between Clinton and Trump. Recent NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of three battleground states show Clinton outpolling Trump among women in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania by 16 percentage points or more. Trump leads among men by a similar margin in Iowa and Ohio, though not in Pennsylvania.

    Women appalled that Trump would try to hold Clinton responsible for her husband's behavior are for the most part voting for Democrats, said Christina Wolbrecht, an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. Those open to the line of attack are for the most part not.

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    "Frankly I think there’s a big chunk of the electorate that just doesn't care," she said. "It's not clear to me that there's a group of independent women for whom this is going to be the thing."

    Once presidential nominees are chosen, partisanship usually determines how 90 percent of the people vote, she said.

    "But we're in uncharted territory here," she said. "We've never had a woman at the top of the ticket."

    At the Republican convention last week, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined enthusiastically in denouncing the Clintons. He called Bill Clinton "a predator president" and charged Hillary Clinton had gone after his accusers as head of "the bimbo squad."

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    "You don't care about women, you don't care about feminism," Giuliani said of Hillary Clinton during a breakfast for the New York delegates on Thursday. "You don't even care about your own dignity. All you care about is power."

    Sharon Day, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, tried to counter accusations that the attacks on Clinton, the first woman named as the presumptive candidate of a major party, were sexist.

    "As first lady, you viciously attacked the character of women who were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of your husband," she said. "I want to see a woman become president one day, and I want my granddaughters to see a woman president, but not that woman, Hillary Clinton. Not now, not ever."

    The attacks are meant to mobilize Trump's supporters and remind them how corrupt they found the Clintons.

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    "It's a base mobilizing thing," Wolbrecht said. "And then often with your opposition it's not so much that you're trying to convince them to vote for you so much as plant enough doubt and uncertainty and discomfort that you dampen down that enthusiasm."

    Trump himself has been married three times. His first marriage to Ivana came to an end after he had begun an affair with Marla Maples, later his second wife.

    In an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN in May, said Trump had started criticizing Hillary Clinton in retaliation, after she played the "woman’s card."

    "She is playing the woman's card to the hilt," Trump said. "She is going, I watched over the weekend, everything is about 'woman' and 'Donald Trump raised his voice.' And you know it's all nonsense. You know what? Women understand it better than anybody."

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    A video released by the Trump campaign showed Bill Clinton chomping on a cigar with audio from two women who accused him of sexual assault: Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. It ends with a photo of Hillary and Bill Clinton with Hillary Clinton laughing. "Here we go again?" it asked.

    Pressed by Cuomo about why he was talking about Bill Clinton's infidelities rather than the issues women care about, he defended his attacks.

    "He was impeached," Trump said of Clinton. "And then he lied about it."

    Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice but was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

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    The Clinton campaign has described the attacks as a way to distract from the election's issues and. 

    Logan Nevonen, a 23-year-old Republican convention delegate from Texas who supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, said she did not approve of the attacks on Clinton.

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    "I don't appreciate that rhetoric, getting at women with sexist comments and things," she said. "He diminishes everything I stand for."

    Trump does not yet have her vote, she said. To earn it, he would have to be less hostile, she said.

    Elaine Mcfalos, a Democrat from North Carolina who will vote for Trump, said during a visit to New York City that she did not find Hillary Clinton trustworthy but not because of Bill Clinton's scandals.

    "She's a strong woman and everybody in this world has had problems like that," Mcfalos said. "So that doesn’t define her."

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    But she thought Clinton should have been punished for her use of a personal server for her professional emails while secretary of state, she said.

    "Her integrity is in question in my mind," she said.

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    Another woman, Marcia Freeman of Queens, New York, will vote for Clinton. The criticism directed against her is wrong, she said.

    "Any man can cheat," she said. "A marriage is a marriage. I'm a Christian and you forgive and forget."

    Freeman said she was "Hillary all the way," and called Trump a racist.

    Hillary Clinton weathered similar attacks when she first ran for office for a New York senate seat, against Giuliani. Giuliani ultimately dropped out of the race after he announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was separating from his second wife.

    In an MSNBC interview, Giuliani repeated his criticism of Hillary Clinton's behavior. 

    "Very few women would attack Monica Lewinsky for three or four months when it turned out that Monica Lewinsky was quite correct and her husband had in fact taken advantage of her," Giuliani said. "Very few women would do that and to pose as a feminist and to say you care about women who are victims makes you in my view a phony."