Former U.S. vice president Al Gore is set to hit the campaign trail in support of former president Bill Clinton’s wife this week.
Gore jumps into the race at a crucial crossroads for the Clinton campaign, which is focused on Donald Trump’s years-old provocative comments about former actress and talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, as well as the billionaire’s past comments regarding an ex-Miss Universe winner who packed on upwards of 50 pounds during the course of her reign.
The Clinton campaign is currently running a much-buzzed-about ad in several swing states transposing Trump’s comments about O’Donnell onto young women looking into a mirror, and the candidate herself recently accused Trump of body-shaming from the stump.
Hillary Clinton is no stranger to men behaving badly. As a young defense lawyer in the 1970s, Mrs. Clinton volunteered to defend the male rapist of a 12-year-old girl, laughing about how she "got him off" during an interview years later.
Clinton’s husband Bill has participated in a well-publicized string of extra-marital affairs and dealt with a number of sexual assault accusations, including several instances where Mrs. Clinton personally strategized to discredit her husband’s accusers.
Gore and Mrs. Clinton have had their share of differences and shared a well-documented icy relationship during the 42nd president’s term. The former president was also famously absent during Mr. Gore’s 2000 campaign for president.
The entrance of Mr. Gore into the 2016 race marks his first foray into this cycle’s presidential campaign and comes at a time where sexual assault, body-shaming, and bullying have surfaced as core issues of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign platform.
Allegations of sexual assault surfaced against Mr. Gore in 2010 from a string of women involved in the massage therapy industry. The most prominent allegation came from a Portland, Ore., massage therapist and was alleged to have occurred in 2006. The alleged victim was interviewed by police at the time, as the Associated Press reported:
In a transcript of the interview, the massage therapist said she had been doing requested abdominal work on Mr. Gore when he demanded she go lower.
"I was shocked and I did not massage beyond what is considered a safe, nonsexual area of the abdomen," she said. "He further insisted and acted angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud."
"I went into much deeper shock as I realized it appeared he was demanding sexual favors or sexual behaviors."
She alleged he later tried to have sex with her.
"I did not immediately call the police as I feared being made into a public spectacle and my reputation being destroyed," she said. "I was not sure what to tell them and was concerned my story would not be believed since there was no DNA evidence from a completed act of rape."
Mr. Gore never faced formal charges, as the police determined there was not enough evidence to convict. On June 1, 2010, Mr. Gore subsequently announced the separation from Tipper, his wife of forty years.
Earlier this year, the FBI decided not to charge Mrs. Clinton in the ongoing saga over her destruction and obfuscation of her email records while she served as the U.S. secretary of state from 2009-2013.
Mr. Gore’s entry into the 2016 race could prove awkward for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign messaging. Late last year, Clinton expressed her belief that sexual assault accusers have the right to be believed:
"Today I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault," Clinton said. "Don't let anyone silence your voice. You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed and we're with you."
"There is a big divide between survivors who do not want to seek the criminal justice system for different reasons and those who want to but are not sure that it would be responsive," Clinton said today. "So we need to do a much better job on the fairness of the response so that people feel like whichever route they go on campus or off they're going to be taken seriously, that doesn't mean that, you know, that there's no process. There has to be one."