Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky scandal—at least, that’s a view Tim Kaine once held.
Kaine’s remark—reported 14 years ago in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the aftermath of a state-level sex scandal—hasn’t drawn any attention thus far in the 2016 presidential cycle. But it suggests Hillary Clinton’s running mate at one point harbored reservations about the integrity of the man poised to become the country’s first first gentleman.
Kaine commented on the Lewinsky scandal in 2002, when allegations of sexual harassment had rocked the Virginia House of Delegates. The speaker of the house, Vance Wilkins, was a Republican power broker who had just helped his party flip the House and build its majority after Democrats had historically controlled the chamber.
Just one problem: Earlier in 2001, Wilkins agreed to pay $100,000 in hush money to a former female employee at his construction company who said he sexually harassed her.
The woman, Jennifer Thompson, alleged privately that Wilkins groped her and pinned her against office furniture. She considered pressing charges, according to a Washington Post report that broke the news on June 7, 2002. But she ultimately decided not to, accepting the $100,000 from Wilkins and signing a confidentiality agreement. The Post cited “sources familiar with the settlement” in their report on it. Wilkins held—and still holds, as he stated in an interview with The Daily Beast—that he didn’t sexually harass Thompson, and that he only paid her to keep her allegations from becoming a scandal that would have undermined Republicans’ efforts to control the House.
The Post’s report caused an immediate firestorm, and top Republicans called for Wilkins to resign. Jerry Kilgore, then the state’s attorney general and top-ranking elected Republican, joined the chorus.
So did Tim Kaine, who was the state’s lieutenant governor at the time. And according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he said he also believed Bill Clinton should have resigned from the presidency over his own sex scandals.
Here’s what the paper wrote, in a story published June 8, 2002:
“If the allegations are true, he should definitely resign,” Kaine said, adding he held the same view about President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
“That is an intolerable way to treat women and it’s not something that the state should be dragged through.”
The Times-Dispatch story is behind a paywall in its archive.
A report in The Washington Post, also published on June 8, 2002, characterized his views the same way:
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who may face [state Attorney General Jerry] Kilgore in the 2005 governor’s race, likened the matter to the sexual scandal of President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, saying, “If the allegations are true, he ought to resign.”
“Somebody in public life shouldn’t behave that way toward women,” Kaine said. “It’s tawdry. It’s not the leadership that Virginia should have.”
An AP story that ran on the same day also highlighted Kaine’s criticism of Bill Clinton.
“When I read it this morning, my reaction was the same I had when I read about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair: this is not appropriate conduct. It’s beneath the dignity of the office,” he said.
Amy Dudley, a spokesperson for Kaine, said the Virginia senator is focused on the future.
“As the Associated Press reported at the time, Kaine characterized President Clinton’s actions as ‘not appropriate’ conduct, but he had previously been on record criticizing the impeachment effort,” she said. “He believes this election is about Hillary Clinton’s vision to make historic investments to create good paying jobs, make college debt free and build an economy that works for everyone, not re-litigating personal issues from the distant past.”
Wilkins told The Daily Beast that he didn’t recall Kaine making the comment, but that he “didn’t pay much attention to him anyway.”
“He saw a political opportunity to make a political hit and he took it,” Wilkins added. “It doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Kaine wasn’t the only Democrat disturbed by Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s world-famous lie—“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—became one of the definitive lines of the ’90s. And their dalliances ultimately led to the House voting to impeach Clinton. Five House Democrats—including Virginian Virgil Goode, who later became a Republican—voted for some of the articles of impeachment. No Senate Democrats voted that Clinton was guilty.
In the years since then, Kaine has spoken favorably of Bill Clinton. In a 2008 interview on CNN—when he was stumping for Barack Obama, who he endorsed in the Democratic primary—he was positive about the former president’s legacy, saying he “got us out of a malaise.”
Kaine isn’t the only Democratic vice presidential nominee to once have harsh words for Bill Clinton. Joseph Lieberman, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, gave a famous speech on the Senate floor calling Clinton’s behavior “disgraceful.”
“Such behavior is not only inappropriate,” Lieberman said at the time, as The Washington Post reported. “It is immoral and it is harmful.”
Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president, went on to pick Lieberman as his running mate in the 2000 presidential race.
Democratic party leaders have not always been so gracious to Bill Clinton’s critics, as Claire McCaskill knows. The Missouri senator—now a top surrogate for Hillary Clinton—faced the Clinton camp’s wrath when she suggested the former president is a creep.
“I think he’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him,” she said on a 2006 episode of Meet the Press.
McCaskill apologized to the former president for the comment, according to Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen’s book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, but didn’t do herself any favors when she endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
“‘Hate’ is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill,” they wrote.
Kaine obviously hasn’t faced the same treatment. In fact, The New York Times reported that the former president he once criticized was his top advocate in the veepstakes.
Kaine has spent the past few weeks palling around with the Clintons as the latest inductee to their circle of trust. But—as his hometown paper once reported—he wasn’t always their biggest fan.