Former President Bill Clinton blamed Republicans who hope to undercut his wife’s presidential chances and a voracious political news media uninterested in substance for the furor surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email account and server while she was secretary of state.
“I have never seen so much expended on so little,” Clinton said in a taped interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that will be shown Sunday. The network released excerpts Saturday afternoon.
“She said she was sorry that her personal email caused all this confusion. And she’d like to give the election back to the American people,” Clinton said. “I think it will be all right. But it’s obvious what happened.”
Clinton likened the current inquiries into his wife’s emails to scandals as far back as the Whitewater land deal that plagued his 1992 campaign and the early years of his administration.
We’re seeing history repeat itself
Former President Bill Clinton
“This is just something that has been a regular feature of all of our presidential campaigns, except in 2008 for unique reasons,” Clinton said, without elaborating on why he believed President Barack Obama did not face similar Republican-led efforts to derail his candidacy.
“It always happens,” he added. “We’re seeing history repeat itself.”
”The other party doesn’t want to run against her. And if they do, they’d like her as mangled up as possible,” Clinton said. “And they know that if they leak things and say things, that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care, or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America.”
Clinton also faulted the political press corps, which he said was determined to see a competitive contest. At the beginning of the year, he noted, his wife “was the most admired person in public life.”
”What happened?” he added. “The presidential campaign happened. And the nature of the coverage shifted from issue-based to political.”
”You can’t complain,” he added. “This is not – this is a contact sport. They’re not giving the job away. And people who want a race wanted her to drop some, and the people in the other party desperately wanted it because she’s already put out more positions on more issues and said how she would pay for it than, I think, than all the others combined, based on the two – the Republicans, based on the two debates I saw.”
The former president, who has kept a relatively low profile in his wife’s presidential campaign, taped the interview Thursday in New York in advance of the U.N. General Assembly and the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference.
On Friday, newly discovered emails raised new questions about whether Hillary Clinton had accurately described when she began using the personal account that she relied on for the rest of her time in the State Department. (On Sunday, in an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” she will most likely face more questions on the matter.)
Despite how the email issue has overshadowed her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton, who stressed that she broke no rules or laws, occasionally made light of the controversy. Bill Clinton had been among those who initially believed his wife did not need to apologize for using private email, a practice that had been allowed at the time and which he said her political rivals were trying to scandalize.
But Hillary Clinton has since apologized, and she has repeatedly said that she would be as transparent as possible in releasing her emails to the State Department.
Hillary Clinton’s more contrite approach comes as her favorability and trustworthiness ratings in some polls have fallen in recent months and as Sen. Bernie Sanders, her leading opponent for the Democratic nomination, has surged ahead in some polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bill Clinton pushed back when Zakaria asked if the questions about the emails were a “Republican plot.”
”No, I’m not going there, because that’s what the – it’s not a – a plot makes it sound like it’s a secret,” he said. “I think that – that there are lots of people who wanted there to be a race for different reasons. And they thought the only way they could make it a race was a full-scale frontal assault on her. And so this email thing became the biggest story in the world.”