The mainstream media loves to milk easy coverage from Twitter comments, and some outlets seem to have a sweet tooth for treating everything Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea says as major news, so let us join the craze by examining Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s exasperated response to Chelsea Clinton tweeting criticism of his rape comments.
The “joke” was delivered in a speech Duterte gave on Friday concerning the imposition of martial law to quell an uprising by Islamic State militants on the island of Mindanao. He was addressing a brigade of soldiers scheduled for deployment to the battle zone around Marawi City.
“For this martial law, and the consequences of martial law, and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just work, I’ll take care of it. I will be the one to imprison you. If you have committed rape three times, I’ll take responsibility for it. If you marry four, son of a bitch, you’ll get beaten up,” Duterte said to the troops.
Chelsea Clinton’s critical tweet was terse:
Not funny. Ever. https://t.co/XUIo85noBQ
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) May 26, 2017
In a subsequent message, she called the Philippine president a “murderous thug with no regard for human rights.”
Duterte’s response was decidedly less terse.
“In an expletive-laden speech at a navy event on Wednesday, Duterte also denounced Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton after she criticized him on Twitter. He asked Chelsea Clinton if she also criticized her father when he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky in the White House when he was president of the United States,” Fox News reports, delicately paraphrasing Duterte’s remarks.
According to the UK Daily Mail, what he actually said was:
These whores, they hear “rape.” Like, like Chelsea, she slammed me. I was not joking, I was being sarcastic. Listen to the speech. I do not laugh at my own jokes. I will tell her, when your father, the president of the United States, was f***ing Lewinsky and the girls in the White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?
Looking past the profanity, a common feature of Duterte speeches, his point that he was “not joking” but “being sarcastic” might seem like a very fine distinction.
Some of the responses to Clinton’s tweet from people familiar with Filipino culture and Tagalog, which he was speaking when he made the rape comment, argued that “jokes” trivialize an issue, while “sarcasm” means saying something outrageous to convey the opposite point. In other words, apologists claim Duterte was telling his soldiers not to do anything improper during the Marawi operation and reminding them he would be held responsible for their actions.
Duterte – who evidently loves sarcasm and has very little interest in ingratiating himself to foreign critics, or foreign allies for that matter – took a moment to make this point during his response to Clinton.
He said rape was “a crime actually committed by soldiers, mostly Americans in Okinawa, but we never heard of a Filipino [rapist soldier].”
“I am just warning them that anything they do, I have to answer for it,” he said of his remarks to his troops. “I take full responsibility for your foolishness. I speak sarcastically.”
“You Americans, like Chelsea, be careful because you live in a glass house. I repeat, when President Clinton was f***ing Lewinsky, what was your statement or your reaction?” he reiterated, without making it clear whether the question was intended as sarcasm.