CW: sexual assault/rape
The evening of June 30th 2021 was witness to the most delicious Freudian slip of the decade so far. As she opened her report on Bill Cosby’s release from prison, the BBC’s Michelle Fleury gestured to the Philadelphia penitentiary behind her, and delivered the following without batting an eyelid:
“For the last two years this has been where Bill Clinton has called home but tonight he will sleep in his own bed, after the bombshell decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn his convictions of sexual assault.”
Oh if it were so. If only Bill Clinton was a convicted sex offender. Substantial evidence would suggest he has done more than enough to qualify.
Everyone has heard of Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern to whom Clinton directed his roving affections. And in the oval office, no less. He has described that relationship as a way to “manage my anxieties”. Less well known is Juanita Broaddrick, who claims to have been raped by Clinton in Little Rock during his 1978 Arkansas gubernatorial campaign.
When Broaddrick went public with her story, the former Clinton activist was deemed sufficiently credible for NBC Dateline to broadcast an interview and accompanying investigative report. Through tears, Broaddrick described the assault:
“He starts to bite on my top lip, and I try to pull away from him. And then he forces me down on the bed…I was getting very noisy, you know, yelling to – you know – please stop…When everything was over with and he got up and straightened himself…he walks to the door and calmly puts on his sunglasses. And before he goes out the door he says, “You’d better put some ice on that.” And he turned and walked out the door.”
Intense media scrutiny of Broaddrick revealed no motive for the fabrication of a rape claim. She had been – until the assault – a Clinton supporter. Note also the lip biting detail. In his book Partners in Power (1999) author Robert Morris details the testimony of another, anonymous woman who also alleges to have been assaulted by Clinton while he was Attorney General of Arkansas. She also recalls having her lips bitten by the president-to-be.
Norma Rogers, a friend of Broaddrick, found her on the morning of the alleged assault with pantyhose torn at the crotch and a badly swollen top lip. Rogers is one of five witnesses to whom Broaddrick told her story while her injuries were still visible.
In 1991, Clinton would seek out Broaddrick again in Little Rock. This time to attempt an apology. She describes that incident in the NBC Dateline interview:
“He immediately began this profuse apology, saying ‘Juanita, I’m sorry for what I did’. He would say things like ‘I’m not the man I used to be. Can you ever forgive me?’”
To her credit, Broaddrick told him to ‘go to hell’. But why was Clinton seeking forgiveness? The Governor of Arkansas was about to announce his candidacy for President. As Christopher Hitchens puts it in his book on Clinton – No One Left to Lie To (1999): ‘for this, of course, and on many future occasions, a “new Clinton” would be required’.
To Broaddrick we can add Paula Jones. Eventually, Clinton would pay Jones $850,000 so that she would end her sexual harassment lawsuit against him. A desire to avoid the media spotlight prevented Broaddrick from ever pressing charges of her own. The camera-shy discretion of women far less powerful than him has stood Bill in good stead.
We can – and should – note the evasive quality of the denials offered by the Clinton administration to these claims, particularly in the case of Juanita Broaddrick. I’ll let Hitchens pick apart one example:
“[Clinton’s] private lawyer David Kendall (…) issued the following statement on 19 February 1999:
Any allegation that the President assaulted Mrs. Broaddrick more than twenty years ago is absolutely false. Beyond that, we’re not going to go.
And beyond that, they haven’t gone. Of course the statement is open to Clintonian parsing. Any allegation? Oh, you mean this allegation? In 1978 the President was Jimmy Carter, who certainly didn’t ‘assault’ any woman that year. And in 1978, Juanita was Mrs. Hickey. So-did Bill Clinton rape Mrs. Hickey that year?…(The President has since paid a fine of $90,000 for lying under oath in Federal Court, and made a payment of $850,000 to settle an allegation of sexual harassment…)”
What did Mrs Clinton think of all this you wonder? During the Lewinsky case, how did she respond to her husband’s claim that fellatio was not a sexual act? What was her public reaction to convincing and credible claims that her husband was a brute? Nothing but loving wifely affection, that’s what. Her 2003 memoir positively drips with it:
“[It is] a love that has persisted for decades (…) he is still the most interesting, energising and fully alive person I have ever met.”
How delightful. This is the same Hillary Clinton who famously helped prepare her husband’s campaign staff to counter any ‘bimbo eruptions’. George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton Press Secretary, recalls in his memoir how Hillary responded to the publication of Paula Jones’s allegations in Penthouse in December 1994. She said: “We have to destroy her story”.
The same Hillary Clinton tweeted in the run up to the November 2016 election that “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported.” They do say politics begins at home…
Clintonoid deceit was never limited to the bedroom. Bill managed to win the hearts of the liberal establishment during the Democratic primaries while overseeing the execution of a disabled black felon – Ricky Ray Rector – partly in order to distract from the discovery of his (consensual!) affair with Gennifer Flowers. Having become an ‘electable’ liberal – one willing to send black men to ugly deaths – he passed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defence of Marriage Act, and a welfare reform package backed by the Republicans which fulfilled his campaign promise to ‘end welfare as we know it’. In other words, Bill was never left-wing. Not even remotely. Yet in 1992 he succeeded in convincing the Democratic establishment that he was the liberal torchbearer of the age. Talk left, act right. The triangulation trick worked its magic.
I have no idea if Michelle Fleury’s swapping of Clinton for Cosby was deliberate. Given the former president’s history it’s not impossible that given the chance, the Beeb’s journalist felt like striking a blow against the slimiest of politicians. In any case, she provided an opportunity to remind ourselves of the hypocrisy and brutality which punctuated Clinton’s political life. Perhaps if we are reminded enough, then we might be more likely to refuse the advances of similarly duplicitous would-be leaders.
If you, or someone you know, have been affected by any of the topics discussed in this article, the following document made by the Oxford Student Union may help: https://www.oxfordsu.org/resourcehandler/63d4e0b0-177c-4208-926d-e42408dbcde4/
Image credits: Gage Skidmore