Hillary Clinton Says She Had 'Obligation' to Defend Accused Rapist

(Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

Hillary Clinton has responded for the first time to recent criticism of her successful 1975 legal defense of an accused rapist, telling a British website that she was "appointed" to the case against her will and that ultimately she was just doing her "professional duty" as an attorney to defend him.

Last month, the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon released audio uncovered from the Clinton archives at the University of Arkansas in which Hillary Clinton discusses how as a young lawyer she represented a 41-year-old accused rapist. In the recordings, from more than 30 years ago, Clinton is heard laughing as she describes how she was able to find a loophole in the system to discredit the evidence against her client, despite suggesting she knew he was guilty.

During a video interview over the weekend with Mumsnet, an online network for mothers in the UK, the former secretary of state spoke about the case for the first time since the story resurfaced.

READ: Hillary Clinton dogged by 1975 rape case defense

"When I was a 27-year-old attorney doing legal-aid work at the law school where I taught in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I was appointed by the local judge to represent a criminal defendant accused of rape. I asked to be relieved of that responsibility, but I was not, and I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did," Clinton said.

Clinton continued to explain that as an attorney she had an "obligation" to provide him with a fair legal defense.

"When you're a lawyer you often don't have the choice to choose who you will represent, and by the very nature of criminal law there will be those who you represent that you won't approve of," she said. "But at least in our system you have an obligation, and once I was appointed, I fulfilled that obligation."

In the end, Clinton said, her client pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

These comments reiterate what Clinton wrote in her 2003 autobiography, "Living History." In the book, Clinton defended taking on the client, saying that while at first she "didn't feel comfortable," she realized that as an attorney she had "an ethical and legal obligation to defend him to the fullest extent of the law."

Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016, is in Europe where she is promoting her new memoir, "Hard Choices."

READ: Hillary Clinton's Easy Choice On What to Say About 'Hard Choices'