WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Rand Paul is defending his fellow Republicans against criticism that the party is out-of-touch on women's issues by reminding voters that the Democrats' last president had an affair with a White House intern.
The Kentucky Republican's Sunday mention of President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky comes as Democrats have been redoubling their efforts to paint the GOP as a party that stands opposed to women on issues such as contraception, abortion rights and equal pay. After losing back-to-back presidential elections, the GOP has tried to improve its outreach to female voters, who reliably support Democratic candidates.
Those GOP efforts stumbled this week, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee talked about women's "libido" and "their reproductive system" while addressing the Republican National Committee. While Huckabee said Democrats were the ones who were patronizing women in their pitch for government-sponsored birth control, Democrats quickly seized on Huckabee's phrasing to underscore their campaign.
"The scariest part is that he thinks they're going to be able to convince voters that they're the new party for women," wrote EMILY's List, a political committee dedicated to electing pro-abortion rights women to office.
Paul, rejecting the criticism of the GOP and trying to turn the tables, said Democrats should examine their former president and his infidelity.
"He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office," Paul said. "There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior."
Lewinsky was 22 at the time of her first liaison with Clinton in November 1995.
Paul's remarks come as he weighs a presidential campaign in 2016 — an endeavor that could bring him face to face with former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, if she decides to run for the White House.
Paul said that Bill Clinton's infidelity shouldn't be used against Hillary Rodham Clinton if she seeks the Democratic nomination for president. "Now, it's not Hillary's fault," he said.
But of the Clintons, he added "sometimes it's hard to separate one from the other."
Bill Clinton's lies about his relationship with Lewinsky were among the reasons the House cited in voting to impeach Clinton in 1998. The Senate acquitted him.
"Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? I mean, really. And then they have the gall to stand up and say, 'Republicans are having a war on women?'" Paul told NBC's "Meet the Press."
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