Most of the time you see headlines about a late-night talk show host doing a thing, that thing is making a joke. Totally ROASTING someone or being AHH GOALS AF or gently ruffling an ascending fascist’s toupee. But the most notable line from Stephen Colbert’s latest interview with Bill Clinton isn’t a zinger and doesn’t slay; it’s just an accurate portrait of Clinton’s big ol’ blindspot when it comes to the #MeToo movement.
The two were talking about a defensive NBC News interview with the former president in which he dodged questions about whether he’d ever apologized personally to Monica Lewinsky. Quite generously, I thought (!), Colbert offered this (watch above at the 3:40 mark):
“If I could, I would think some of the reason why people saw that interview and thought that it was tone-deaf or whatever word they wanted to use, is that you seemed surprised that that question would come up, that somehow that this had all been adjudicated in the past and there’s no reason to talk about it again. Where it seems like the spirit of the #MeToo movement is that it doesn’t matter how long ago it happened. Examples of men who were not held accountable for their behavior, especially men in power with younger women or people who worked for them, is worthy of being re-adjudicated or adjudicated for the first time, no matter how long ago it happened.”
At which point the audience broke into applause. Then he added:
“It seemed tone deaf to me because you seemed offended to be asked about this thing when, in all due respect, sir, your behavior was the most famous example of a powerful man sexually misbehaving in the workplace of my lifetime. And so it doesn’t seem surprising that the question was asked.”
Colbert’s point was 1) a salient interpretation of the goals of a movement that is still gaining power, 2) a clear and honest critique of Clinton’s waffling on the issue and 3) delivered even-handedly and basically uninterrupted, so Clinton should have heard loud and clear! Clinton’s response was that he resented Colbert’s implication that he had “never tried to come to grips” with what he did.
He also said that he’d been asked about his behavior in the Lewinsky scandal in the context of the #MeToo movement and he “didn’t mind at all.” Perhaps that applies to future lines of questioning, too.