Editor’s note: Candice Jackson’s explosive new book, “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine,” tells, like never before, the stories of Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and others who have suffered from the actions of William Jefferson Clinton.
In this excerpt from the book, Jackson comprehensively covers Broaddrick’s story of being raped by Clinton, tells of her own experience being sexually assaulted and explains how she believes American liberalism encourages the forcing of the will on others.
To this point, I have carefully avoided using the word “victim” to describe any of Clinton’s women. I made that conscious effort in tribute to the maxim that overuse of a word dilutes its meaning. As comedian Ellen DeGeneres once put it, when everything is “the worst thing” then people run around saying “Oh, paper cuts – they’re the worst thing,” as if a paper cut is a “worst thing” in the same way as the death of a loved one is the “worst thing.”
While Gracen, Perdue, Flowers, Jones, Willey and Lewinsky suffered undeserved mistreatment at Clinton’s hands, none of those women found themselves victimized by Clinton in the most extreme, brutal sense of the word. Four of those women engaged in consensual affairs; the other two suffered the humiliation of unwanted sexual advances, including unwanted touching, but neither suffered forced sexual intercourse – rape.
In this final profile, the “V” word appears at last, and I hope that by reserving it for Juanita Broaddrick, its meaning will remain robust, for there is no more appropriate place for it than in her story.
In March 1976, Bill Clinton took a leave of absence from his professorship at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville law school to run for Arkansas state attorney general. Calling the post “the principal protector of the people,” Clinton faced off in the Democratic primary against the secretary of state and the deputy attorney general.
Rebounding from his November 1974 loss in his first political race (popular Republican incumbent Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt narrowly beat him), Clinton poured more energy and networking zeal into his attorney general campaign than the other two primary candidates combined. It paid off. He garnered more than 50 percent of the primary vote, thereby avoiding a run-off, and faced no Republican challenge in the general election, leaving him free to campaign around Arkansas for Jimmy Carter until he began his career as a public servant in November 1976, at age 30.
Already, supporters knew that Clinton was their “governor-in-waiting,” and sure enough, by 1977 he began contemplating his bid for the chief executive spot. His only question was whether he should skip this step and go directly to the U.S. Senate. His first campaign call was to Dick Morris, to help him decide whether to run for governor or senator. Once he’d decided on the governorship, he spent the spring of 1978 running two campaigns. Publicly, he had his own primary election to deal with, though he was far and away the strongest Democratic candidate. Privately, he spent hours plotting with Dick Morris to improve the then-governor’s chances of beating his Democratic rival in the U.S. Senate race – in hopes of neutralizing that rival’s status as Clinton’s main competition as rising Democratic star in Arkansas politics. In the general election that fall, Clinton won with 63 percent of the vote to become governor at age 32.
In 1978, 35-year-old Juanita Hickey worked as a registered nurse. She was married to her first husband, Gary Hickey, but having an affair with her future second husband, David Broaddrick. She had started her own nursing home in Van Buren, Arkansas, a successful endeavor that eventually grew into two residential facilities – one for the elderly and one for severely handicapped children. The young, charismatic Clinton was in the midst of his gubernatorial race and had made a campaign stop at her nursing home that spring.
While glad-handing there, Clinton told her to be sure to stop by campaign headquarters if she was ever in Little Rock. She was so impressed with him that for the first time in her life she volunteered to help a political campaign, agreeing to hand out bumper stickers and signs. She thought he had “bright ideas” for the state and felt eager to pay a visit to his Little Rock headquarters, excited about picking up T-shirts and buttons to hand out.
Not long after that, she attended a seminar of the American College of Nursing Home Administrators at the Camelot Hotel in Little Rock. She stayed in a hotel room with her friend, Norma Kelsey. After they checked in to their room, Broaddrick called Clinton campaign headquarters and was told to call Clinton at his apartment. She did, and asked Clinton if he was going to be at his headquarters that day. He said no, but suggested they meet for coffee in the hotel coffee shop. A bit later the same morning, Clinton called her and asked if they could meet in her hotel room because there were reporters crawling around the coffee shop.
She felt “a little bit uneasy” meeting him in her hotel room, but felt a “real friendship toward this man” and didn’t feel any “danger” in him coming to her room. When Clinton arrived she had coffee ready on a little table under a window overlooking a river. Then “he came around me and sort of put his arm over my shoulder to point to this little building and he said he was real interested if he became governor to restore that little building and then all of a sudden, he turned me around and started kissing me. And that was a real shock.” Broaddrick pushed him away and said, “No, please don’t do that” and told Clinton she was married. But he tried to kiss her again. This time he bit her upper lip. She tried to pull away from him but he forced her onto the bed. “And I just was very frightened, and I tried to get away from him and I told him ‘No,’ that I didn’t want this to happen, but he wouldn’t listen to me.” But he “was such a different person at that moment, he was just a vicious awful person.” At some point she stopped resisting. She explained, “It was a real panicky, panicky situation. I was even to the point where I was getting very noisy, you know, yelling to ‘Please stop.’ And that’s when he pressed down on my right shoulder and he would bite my lip.”
Clinton didn’t linger long afterward. “When everything was over with, he got up and straightened himself, and I was crying at the moment and he walks to the door, and calmly puts on his sunglasses. And before he goes out the door he says, ‘You better get some ice on that.’ And he turned and went out the door.” The whole encounter lasted less than 30 minutes, but it changed Juanita Broaddrick’s life forever.
When questioned by an interviewer, “Is there any way at all that Bill Clinton could have thought that this was consensual?” Juanita Broaddrick answered, “No. Not with what I told him, and with how I tried to push him away. It was not consensual.” The interviewer, NBC’s Lisa Myers, pressed for specificity. “You’re saying that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted you, that he raped you?” Broaddrick answered, “Yes.”
Broaddrick’s friend Norma said that when she left their shared hotel room that morning, Broaddrick had told her that she planned to meet with Clinton. When Norma called around lunchtime, however, Broaddrick sounded so upset that Norma returned to the room to find Broaddrick’s lip and mouth badly swollen and her pantyhose ripped off. Broaddrick told Norma that Clinton had sexually assaulted her.
Broaddrick was too upset to stay for the nursing home meeting, so she and Norma drove the two hours back to Van Buren immediately, stopping for more ice to apply to Broaddrick’s swollen mouth. On the drive back, Norma says, Broaddrick was in shock, and very upset, blaming herself for letting Clinton into her room. “But who, for heaven’s sake, would have imagined anything like this?” Broaddrick said years later. “This was the attorney general – and it just never entered my mind.” In her NBC interview, Broaddrick said she didn’t tell her then-husband, Gary Hickey, who says now that he doesn’t remember her lip being swollen (she says she explained that to him as an accident). Broaddrick did tell her now-husband, David Broaddrick, soon after she returned home, that she had been assaulted by Clinton. David Broaddrick recalls that her lip was “black” and “mentally she was in bad shape.” Broaddrick told three other friends soon after the attack, all of whom vouch for her story.
About three weeks after the rape, Broaddrick told Lisa Myers, she and her first husband attended a Clinton fund-raiser together. She still “felt in denial” and “very guilty” and at that time still felt like she should “just shut up and accept [her] punishment” for letting Clinton into her room, since that must have given him “the wrong idea” about what she had wanted to happen. After that, Clinton called her half a dozen times at her nursing home. Once he got through to her and asked when she was coming to Little Rock again. She just said, “I’m not,” and left it at that.
In 1979, Broaddrick accepted a non-paying position on a state advisory board relating to nursing homes – a position to which Gov. Clinton appointed her. For over a decade she dealt with the governor’s office on occasion but not Clinton personally, except for a 1984 letter Clinton sent her after her nursing home was named one of the best in the state. At the bottom is a handwritten note, “I admire you very much.” She interpreted it as a “thank you” for her silence.
In 1991 she attended another nursing-home meeting in Little Rock, with two friends. In person, Bill Clinton called her out of the meeting; one friend confirms seeing the pair talking. Immediately, Broaddrick says, Clinton “began this profuse apology,” saying to her, “Juanita, I’m so sorry for what I did. I’m not the man that I used to be, can you ever forgive me? What can I do to make this up to you?”
Feeling “absolute shock,” she told him to go to hell and walked away. “In that moment,” Broaddrick tells me, “I let go of my guilt and put it where it should have been all those years: on him.” She continues, “It was a relief not to blame myself anymore.” When she went to lunch with two of her friends who were also nurses just after the freak encounter with Clinton, the three women “actually began to discuss the possibilities that Bill Clinton might be remorseful.” However, “that faded as soon as he announced his candidacy for president about three weeks later.” Broaddrick and her friends were all at work when the news broke, “and we just looked at each other and shook our heads in disgust.”
As early as the 1992 presidential race, Juanita Broaddrick’s story entered the realm of rumors that swirled around Bill Clinton. Though her own account didn’t appear in the news until one week after the Senate acquitted President Clinton in February 1999, her name had been circulating among the media, Clinton’s political opponents, and later, Paula Jones’s legal team. Broaddrick’s “phone rang incessantly with requests for interviews, all of them refused” until January 1999.
In November 1997, investigators for Paula Jones confronted Juanita Broaddrick – and tape recorded the encounter – but she slammed the door in their faces saying she didn’t want to relive the “horrible thing” that had happened. When Jones’ attorneys subpoenaed Broaddrick, she signed an affidavit saying she’d never experienced unwanted sexual advances from Bill Clinton. Paula Jones’ lawyers used Broaddrick’s story, disguised as “Jane Doe No. 5” in a court filing based largely on a 1992 letter to Broaddrick from a friend of hers, Philip Yoakum. In that letter, Mr. Yoakum wrote that he was “particularly distraught when you told me of your brutal rape by Bill Clinton, how he bit your lip until you gave into his forcing sex upon you.” When this letter and the Jones court filing hit the news in March 1998, Mr. Yoakum told reporters he’d tried to get Broaddrick to go public during the 1992 campaign, but she’d said to him, “Who would believe me, little old Juanita from Van Buren?”
Some people would. Reporting in March 1998 on the Yoakum letter, NBC’s Lisa Myers called Broaddrick’s story “potentially the most explosive allegation out there.” Myers pointed out that “Juanita Broaddrick has never tried to sell any story. She has never gone after the president. She is a nurse who built a nursing-home business. She is a respected member of her community in a little town in Arkansas.” Through lawyers, the White House called Broaddrick’s story (as represented in the Paula Jones court papers) “outrageous” and smugly pointed journalists toward Broaddrick’s affidavit denying it.
Ken Starr provided the impetus forcing Juanita Broaddrick’s story into public view when he subpoenaed Paula Jones’ lawyers for records relating to Broaddrick and three other specific women (in addition to Kathleen Willey and Monica Lewinsky) in March 1998. In April 1998 Broaddrick admitted to the OIC that she’d lied in her affidavit, but Starr didn’t pursue her story because she insisted she’d never been threatened or bribed into silence – hence there was no obstruction of justice angle for Starr to use in his investigation. To the public eye, Juanita Broaddrick’s story remained a mere footnote to the Paula Jones lawsuit and the Monica Lewinsky scandal engulfing the Clinton administration throughout 1998. She spoke with The Washington Post in April 1998 but insisted on staying off the record.
Even though she’d signed the affidavit and had consistently refused to discuss her story on the record, “Jane Doe No. 5” appeared in materials turned over to Congress during impeachment hearings and reportedly influenced several wavering Republicans to vote in favor of impeachment, although House of Representatives prosecutors declined to include her story in their case against Clinton at the Senate trial.
Rumors about her story wouldn’t disappear. Some of them offended Broaddrick, and one in particular pushed her over the edge into public disclosure: on New Year’s Eve 1998 a friend handed her a tabloid story stating that Clinton had bribed David Broaddrick to suppress his wife’s account. By January 1999, NBC correspondent Lisa Myers had been trying to persuade Broaddrick to tell her story publicly for months. Kathleen Willey tells me, “Lisa Myers called me and asked me if I would talk with Juanita.” Willey talked with Broaddrick “many times … I told her what I went through” going public with her story. “Juanita would tell me, ‘I’m just so afraid that I’m finally getting this off my chest and then people won’t believe me,'” Willey tells me sadly. “She kept saying, ‘I don’t want it to be for naught.'” After everything Willey had been through herself, she didn’t feel like she could offer Broaddrick much comfort. “I had to tell her there are no guarantees; look who you’re dealing with,” Willey says, before adding quietly, “All of us involved in this Clinton thing, we really have not fared well.” Willey stopped short of giving Broaddrick any specific advice. “I wouldn’t tell her what to do,” she says.
Broaddrick was in her mid-50s in January 1999 when she finally relented and taped an interview with NBC. NBC had the scoop, but held off airing the interview for a month, citing the need for further investigation into the details of Broaddrick’s account. The delay frustrated Broaddrick, who said NBC had been investigating for nearly a year already, even combing through “old papers about the case we settled with two employees fired for theft 20 years ago.” During the delay, NBC interviewer Lisa Myers told Broaddrick, “The good news is you’re credible. The bad news is that you’re very credible.” The story looked explosive, and NBC wanted to make sure it was “rock solid” before airing it.
Broaddrick wound up giving The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz a heart-to-heart chat, which the WSJ published on Feb. 19, 1999, a week after the Senate acquitted President Clinton. NBC aired its interview with Broaddrick on “Dateline” on Feb. 24, 1999. WSJ editorial writer Dorothy Rabinowitz described Broaddrick as “a woman of accomplishment, prosperous, successful in her field, serious; a woman seeking no profit, no book, no lawsuit.” Ms. Rabinowitz continued: “[She is a] woman of a kind people like and warm to. To meet Juanita Broaddrick at her house in Van Buren is to encounter a woman of sunny disposition. … She sits talking in the peaceful house on a hilltop overlooking the Broaddricks’ 40 acres, where 30 cows, five horses and a mule roam. …. It’s a good life all right.”
By the time it finally aired its interview with Juanita Broaddrick, NBC had done the thing properly. Lisa Myers reported that NBC had talked to four friends who corroborated Broaddrick’s story, and had even tracked down a detail that would be often used to challenge it: Broaddrick could not remember the month or date of the rape. Springtime of 1978 was as close as she could recall, though she recalls with clarity many other details, like what she was wearing, the hotel room furnishings, the view from the window.
NBC checked all of Juanita Broaddrick’s personal and business records, public records, nursing-home records and convention schedules, and learned that there was a nursing-home meeting at the Camelot Hotel in Little Rock on April 25, 1978. State records even show that Broaddrick received credit for a seminar that day. The White House refused to answer NBC’s requests for information, and NBC could find no evidence about Clinton’s whereabouts that day, which contradicted Willey’s claims; he had no “public appearances on the morning in question,” and newspaper articles “suggest he was in Little Rock that day.”
Other details checked out, too. The “little building” visible from the hotel room window that Broaddrick says Clinton pointed to was the Pulaski County jail. Though it was torn down later, in April 1978 it was visible from river-facing rooms in the Camelot Hotel. Local law enforcement officials told NBC that Broaddrick was a solid citizen with no criminal record and that they took her allegations very seriously; of course, there was nothing that law enforcement could do, since the statute of limitations for the crime of rape had run out more than a decade earlier.
Why did she refuse to report it when it occurred, or come forward when Clinton ran for president? “[Given the] mentality of the ’70s,” she said, “There I was, I was married, I was also in a relationship with another man, and … I was there alone in a hotel room with the attorney general and I didn’t think anyone would possibly believe me.” As for coming forward during the 1992 campaign, she and her second husband, David Broaddrick, talked about it in 1992, but “[it] brought up a lot of hurt, and a lot of things that I’d buried years ago. And then we just decided it wouldn’t be in our interest to do it. So we decided not to.” Lisa Myers asked, “Did you receive any payoff to stay silent,” to which Broaddrick responded, “Oh goodness, no. I mean how could anyone be bribed or paid-off for, for something that, to not say anything about something that horrible?” No one ever threatened her, either; staying silent for so many years was strictly her choice. Why did she sign a false affidavit? “I didn’t want to be forced to testify about one of the most horrific events in my life,” she told Lisa Myers. “I didn’t want to go through it again.” But signing the affidavit hadn’t called off the hounds and there she was, reliving it all over again on national TV.
When Kathleen Willey finally came forward with her story of unwanted sexual advances in March 1998, Broaddrick told Myers that she struggled again over whether to tell her side of things. “I would get up in the morning and I would think: it’s the thing to do. Then by nighttime I would think that could bring no good whatsoever to my life. And I’m sorry for these women. I’m sorry for what they went through, but I just wasn’t brave enough to do it. There’s nothing else to say.” She talked to Ken Starr in April 1998 only because he granted her immunity and she was afraid of lying to federal prosecutors. By the time she bared her soul in public in January 1999, she “just couldn’t hold it in any longer.” Although she had “buried this a long time ago,” she now felt compelled to “clear up all these stories” floating around about her. Time had not healed all her wounds, however. When asked how she felt about Bill Clinton, she replied, “I couldn’t say it on the air. My hatred for him is overwhelming.”
As difficult as it was for Broaddrick to come forward, she expresses sympathy for the trouble her “Dateline” interview caused Lisa Myers. “I feel that Lisa suffered during this time,” Broaddrick confides to me. While NBC postponed the airing of the “Dateline” interview, some people created buttons that read “Free Lisa Myers” that were worn by Brit Hume and others on Fox News Network. Despite Myers’s painstaking research and reporting, airing Broaddrick’s story still carried a professional and political price. “Lisa and I remain good friends,” Broaddrick tells me. Clearly, Lisa Myers remains one of the few journalists with the courage to stand by Broaddrick through this ordeal, and Broaddrick must deeply appreciate her professional integrity and personal support.
Broaddrick is also tremendously proud of her son, attorney Kevin Hickey, who appeared on “Larry King Live” in March 1999 defending his mother against guests Dee Dee Myers and David Gergen, former Clinton advisers. Kevin was only 9 years old when the rape happened, and his mother didn’t burden him with her ordeal until rumors began surfacing during the 1992 campaign. Then, she sat down with Kevin and told him what Bill Clinton had done to her. He was shocked and angry at then-candidate Clinton.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Kevin told Larry King. “But I could tell, just by the look in her face, that this was just a terrible, terrible experience.” When Larry King asked Kevin what his feelings were toward Clinton, Kevin replied, “Disgust. The guy has got into a high office – a lot of people think he’s a very good politician and that may be true, but I think he leaves a lot to be desired as a person and that’s pretty much my feelings of him.” Dee Dee Myers and David Gergen were left fumbling for words, admitting that they found Kevin and his mother quite believable. Gergen said that Kevin’s interview gave him pause because “what mother would tell her son that she had been raped if it hadn’t happened?” Broaddrick says of her son’s interview, “He was awesome. … Dee Dee Myers and David Gergen were speechless after Kevin’s interview.” After Broaddrick’s interview with the WSJ, the White House issued its first direct statement mentioning Juanita Broaddrick by name.
“Any allegation that the president assaulted Ms. Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false,” read a statement from the president’s personal attorney, David E. Kendall. That was it. No attempt to argue that Clinton wasn’t even in Little Rock on the day in question, or that he had never been alone with her, or even that they hadn’t had sexual relations. The denial was immediately parsed by some in the press and public wary of Clinton’s overly technical, legalistic use of the English language. Broaddrick wasn’t known as “Ms. Broaddrick” in 1978, some noted – at that time she was “Mrs. Hickey.” She alleged rape, not “assault.” The denial even seemed to leave intact a possible loophole – Clinton could retort that consensual sex had occurred, just not rape. Clinton never addressed the charges; when questioned he answered, “Well, my counsel has made a statement about the … issue and I have nothing to add to it.”
An initial smattering of coverage followed the February 20 Wall Street Journal interview, but the story faded quickly. On Feb. 23, 1999, journalist Richard Cohen wrote of the Clintons: None of the rules of political gravity apply to them. They just float above everything.
Take the rape charge. It is that – get it? I feel I have to emphasize it: The president of the United States is accused of raping a woman back when he was attorney general of Arkansas. An account of this alleged rape ran on Page 1 of The Washington Post. Get it? Page One! The Washington Post! Do you want to know what happened next? Nothing.
A second wave of commentary and coverage washed up after NBC aired its interview on Feb. 24, 1999. Much of it focused on the perceived weaknesses in Juanita Broaddrick’s account – particularly, that she could not recall the month or date of the rape, and that she attended a Clinton fund-raiser just weeks after it happened. Coverage focused on her story’s import to the media industry more than on the impact of her story as such. The Chicago Tribune wrapped up its article with a tone weary with scandal fatigue: “The Broaddrick allegation – a devastatingly serious but old and unproven charge against the president of the United States – presented every newsroom in the country with a difficult decision.” Columnist Mary McGrory wrote that Broaddrick’s allegations were treated more as a “press mystery” than as a bombshell. Michael Kelly spotted the problem: no one cares. Clinton’s lawyer, Kelly observed, declared the allegation “absolutely false.” But the lawyer couldn’t know for certain the charge was false. “At best, he can know that Clinton says the accusation is false,” Kelly wrote. “And what is that worth?” Kelly concluded, “But [Clinton’s lawyer] of course doesn’t really care whether Broaddrick’s story is true or not. He doesn’t really care whether the president is a rapist or not. He doesn’t really care, because he figures you don’t really care either – at least, not enough to do anything about it.”
Richard Cohen, a columnist for The Washington Post since 1976 who is no friend of conservatives (in a column after President Reagan’s death Cohen refused to give Reagan credit for ending the Cold War, saying flippantly that the Soviet empire “would have collapsed sooner or later”) remained troubled by Juanita Broaddrick’s story. “Is it possible the president’s a rapist? Am I supposed not to care?” Cohen wondered. “Who is this guy?” Cohen wrote, and answered himself: “At one time, I thought I knew. He was a somewhat left of center southern governor – progressive, a policy wonk, a product of the anti-war movement, and, of course, a womanizer. This much I knew, and none of it, including the last, bothered me much.” But Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Monica Lewinsky were not what Cohen expected from Clinton. Now, with Juanita Broaddrick, “A woman has cried rape. She sounds credible. … The White House denies the charge, but so what? I would expect nothing less. Anyway, we’re not talking George Washington here. With Clinton, if there’s a cherry tree down, we know who did it.” You can almost see him shaking his head in dismay as he closed by repeating, “Who is this guy?”
But Bill Clinton’s constellation of previous denials-turned-admissions had at least somewhat caught up with him. Donna Shalala, Clinton’s secretary of health and human services, had firmly and publicly expressed complete belief in Clinton’s denial of the Monica Lewinsky affair in 1998. A year later, when asked whether she believed Juanita Broaddrick, Ms. Shalala would only say that she took the charges seriously, hadn’t reached a conclusion about whether she believed Broaddrick, but didn’t need to decide that in order to be “a patriot and a professional” and do her job in the Clinton administration.
A senior White House official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said: “Bill Clinton has got a problem. If he weren’t president he would be in counseling. … But I don’t think because he’s got a sickness, that corrupts everything about him. … He is a great president.” A sickness? Perhaps, but sexual addiction is just one part of the mix of influences shaping Bill Clinton’s mistreatment of women. Former Clinton loyalist George Stephanopoulos, whose book about life in the Clinton White House, “All Too Human,” came out less than a month after Broaddrick’s charges aired, said it “rips my stomach” to think of being in the White House and trying to duck her story. He thought Clinton’s lawyer’s denial was worded to give cover to the idea that there might have been a consensual sexual encounter. The man he knew and worked for from 1991 until 1996, he said, wasn’t capable of such an assault, but “I did not know Bill Clinton in 1978.” Hardly a ringing endorsement from someone who used to consider Bill a friend as well as a boss.
One newspaper editor wrote, “[W]ho can say Broaddrick’s charges are preposterous, outrageous, unthinkable? Who can say with certainty we don’t have a rapist in the White House? Indeed, her story is so credible that NBC News – nobody’s right-wing conspirator – aired it after weeks of double-checking the details. Major networks don’t run such stories every day.” The editor continued, “Jones, Willey and Broaddrick – there’s something about Bill and sexual assault. He’s either the most victimized man in America or our most famous victimizer. … Alas, his own may not have been the only lip Bill Clinton’s ever bitten.”
The media didn’t give Clinton a free pass on the Broaddrick story, but there did exist an overall lack of direction; “where do we go with it from here,” summed up the sentiments of many journalists. With no legal, criminal, or impeachment machinery pushing the story along it petered out quickly, with most commentators’ final words centered on the sad thought that no one will ever know for sure whether we twice elected a rapist to the highest office in the land. Noting that Newsweek’s only coverage of the Broaddrick story had been a pithy remark in its “Conventional Wisdom” item-of-the-week box (she got a sideways arrow for not coming forward sooner but, opined Newsweek, her charges “sound like our guy”), one columnist summed up the reaction to Broaddrick this way: “He raped you, Juanita? Yeah, sounds like our guy. But what’s your point?”
Refusing to comment directly on Broaddrick’s credibility, The New York Times editorialized that Clinton’s “talk to my lawyer” statements were insufficient responses: “There is no legal or constitutional remedy for the [Broaddrick] situation,” wrote the Times. “But surely there is a limit to how long Mr. Clinton can speak through his lawyer on these matters. … [I]t would be nice to hear Mr. Clinton himself address the matter and provide his version of what transpired, if in fact the two did meet in a Little Rock hotel room in 1978.”
Professor Susan Estrich called The New York Times “deeply out of touch with the people of this country” for making such an unreasonable request of Clinton. The Washington Post also disagreed with The New York Times – but for a different reason. Hearing Clinton speak directly to the matter wouldn’t help us figure out Broaddrick’s story one bit, editorialized the Post: “Mr. Clinton’s word in this realm by now has no value. That leaves us with an accusation that cannot be reasonably accepted, nor easily ignored. It is a mark of where Mr. Clinton has brought us as a country that he cannot begin to ameliorate that fact.”
On an episode of NBC’s “Today,” Dorothy Rabinowitz, the journalist whose Wall Street Journal interview with Broaddrick brought the story into the mainstream, defended her assessment of Broaddrick’s credibility. She said that Broaddrick’s 21-year delay may mean the legal system offered no recourse, but history still had a right to know her story in order to evaluate the person of Bill Clinton. Rabinowitz, who had earned respect among her peers for her investigative reporting about false claims of child sexual abuse in the mid-1990s, added that talking face to face with Juanita Broaddrick is to “find yourself in the presence of someone you suspect is telling something that happened.” The show’s other guest for the segment, Alan Dershowitz, dismissed Broaddrick’s story as “gossip,” though he admitted that Clinton’s word wasn’t any better than Broaddrick’s when it came to matters of sex.
Attacks on Juanita Broaddrick’s character were kept to a minimum, but some pundits took their shots. Bill Press, co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” wrote for the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t believe Juanita Broaddrick for the following reasons: (1) she couldn’t remember the date of the rape (“If she was scarred for life, wouldn’t she remember the date?”); (2) she was cheating on her first husband at the time so at most Broaddrick and Clinton probably had consensual sex (“If you’re cheating on your husband, and then cheat on your boyfriend, do you tell your boyfriend the truth?”); and (3) she attended a Clinton fund-raiser and accepted appointment to a government post after the alleged rape (“Why did she still want to support a man who raped her?”).
Former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis protested, “Is journalism about reporting facts or not? … It is not corroborated because her girlfriend saw her with a swollen lip. That doesn’t make the charge of rape a fact. … How do we know she didn’t lie to all her friends? We know that, voluntarily … she swore out an affidavit that she now says she lied about.” His protest might have been a bit more convincing if we hadn’t watched a similar affidavit signed by Monica Lewinsky go up in smoke just six months earlier.
Feminists had trouble discounting Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations. Gloria Allred, an attorney who filed the first formal charges against Sen. Bob Packwood for sexual harassment, is a rape survivor herself who never reported the rape to police. Whether or not anything could be done legally about Broaddrick’s rape, Ms. Allred insisted that the public has a right to know if the president is a rapist. Denise Snyder, executive director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, cautioned people about viewing Juanita Broaddrick’s two-decade delay in coming forward as a slight on her credibility. When the assailant has “a lot of power and a high public profile,” such delays are common, she said.
Patricia Ireland – the then-president of NOW who also voiced support for Kathleen Willey – issued a pre-emptive statement calling on the White House to treat Broaddrick “fairly, respectfully,” and not to “trash this woman,” whose allegations must be taken seriously. On “Larry King Live” Ireland added that even if President Clinton looked America in the eye and denied the rape, there’s a “certain credibility gap” to whatever he’d say. She added that she understood why Juanita Broaddrick felt reluctant to come forward for so many years.
Susan Faludi, author of the influential 1992 feminist tome “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” found Broaddrick “credible” but wasn’t sure “what Juanita Broaddrick wants done [about her allegations].” So she used Broaddrick to take a swipe at conservatives, for whom “women can be damned” unless “the perpetrator is Clinton.” By contrast, feminist author Andrea Dworkin stated flatly, “I believe that Clinton is a rapist. I believe the woman – and if I had doubts about the woman, I trust what I perceive about him.” She classified “what he did to Paula Jones” as assault, and from there, she said, “it’s a very clear line to rape. … Suddenly, every time you look at this man you have to think about rape. It’s harder to sleep, it’s hard to work … because this man is the president. That’s obscenity – right there.” She didn’t stop with castigating Clinton, either. “Essentially, while what’s left of the women’s movement shows any support for Clinton, they’re destroying the movement itself as any kind of refuge for women who’ve been sexually assaulted,” Dworkin said cogently. Apparently at least one feminist icon truly believes in feminism’s motto – the personal is political – enough to apply it even to a leader who’s good on “women’s issues” if that same leader mistreats individual women.
Around this time – during and just after the impeachment trial – Clinton’s job performance rating remained high, hovering at about 64 percent. However, the percentage of people who believed him to embody the values most Americans try to live up to had plummeted to about 30 percent, and only about 35 percent of the public believed him to be honest and trustworthy.
There’s nothing schizophrenic about those numbers. A dishonest, untrustworthy man can make official decisions favored even by those who think him dishonest and untrustworthy. Pundit Morton Kondracke argued that nothing should be done about Juanita Broaddrick’s story – legally or politically. But as a “cultural test” people should know as much about President Clinton’s “personal” behavior as possible, even if it meant considering the possibility that a sitting president is a “monster” who “sexually assaulted a woman, biting her lip to impose himself on her.”
One month after Juanita Broaddrick’s charges aired publicly, Bill Clinton faced reporters in his first solo press conference in over nine months. One reporter had the audacity to pose this question: If the first president was remembered for never telling a lie, what would be Clinton’s legacy in this respect? “Clinton’s face tightened. Then, in an edgy voice, he pleaded for people to look just as hard at the veracity and motives of his critics as they have at his own.” In a “box score,” Clinton went on, “there will be that one negative,” but “then there will be the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times when the record will show that I did not abuse my authority as president, that I was truthful with the American people, and scores and scores of allegations were made against me and widely publicized without any regard to whether they were true or not.” He didn’t bother explaining which “allegations” were true and which weren’t. And he never directly addressed Juanita Broaddrick’s charges. Maybe he feared this was finally a he said, she said battle he might lose.
Broaddrick filed a lawsuit against Clinton in the summer of 1999 to obtain documents the White House may have gathered about her, claiming its refusal to accede to her demand for such documents violated the Privacy Act. The case was dismissed in 2001. In the middle of that lawsuit, Broaddrick’s nursing-home business found itself audited by the IRS for the first time in its 30 years of existence. “I do not believe this was coincidence,” Broaddrick declared, “I do not think our number just came up.”
For a while Juanita and David Broaddrick returned to their quiet, successful life in rural Arkansas. But, Broaddrick tells me, “My life with David gradually began to deteriorate before and after the interview [on ‘Dateline’].” Her husband had been “totally against my coming forward and I think the unwanted publicity into our private lives gradually destroyed our marriage.” They divorced in 2004. Juanita still owns one of their two nursing-home facilities, and their home and acreage, and David owns the other facility. “We are both very happy now,” she says, “but I will always wonder if we would be together and happy had I not come forward.”
This is a woman of tremendous strength, whose zest for life and self-confidence shines through her voice as we talk. She loves to play tennis and is on two teams. She is financially comfortable and has even begun to date again. “Man, that is a trip at 62,” she laughs. She baby-sits her “new, precious grandson” and has a “very happy life.” She remains an outspoken critic of former President Clinton, but tells me, “Life goes on, and it is a great life.”
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a division of the Centers for Disease Control, reports that about 40 percent of rape victims described their attacker as a friend or acquaintance, and that fewer than half of all rapes are reported to authorities. Juanita Broaddrick fits within those statistics.
Whatever the circumstances of the rape, most victims experience some level of psychological trauma. Juanita Broaddrick didn’t walk us step by step through the long days and nights she must have spent processing what happened to her, but the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Medical Center tells rape victims that common reactions to the psychological trauma of rape include: shock and disbelief; intense emotions of anger, anxiety or depression; unwanted memories, flashbacks, or nightmares; physical symptoms like sleeplessness, headaches, or stomach pains, fear for personal safety even in situations that didn’t previously cause any concern; and feelings of guilt and shame. Acquiring information about all the “normal” reactions does little, though, to actually help a woman feel better about experiencing the brutal act of rape.
I’d rather disclose my limitations in looking at Juanita Broaddrick’s story than wonder quietly to myself if I managed to pull off neutrality in writing about her experience. These pages aren’t intended for my own life story, but I doubt my ability to write about Juanita Broaddrick without imposing some of my own experience onto my interpretation of hers.
Many years ago I was sexually assaulted … raped – the word still sticks uncomfortably in my throat. I don’t think I’ve said it out loud for years, and I’m even grateful to be writing this instead of speaking it. Reading the transcript of Broaddrick’s interview with “Dateline” I noticed immediately that Broaddrick got through her narrative of her encounter with Clinton without saying the word “rape.” She answered “yes” when Lisa Myers asked if Clinton raped her, but she never did utter the word herself. A Clinton defender used that omission to insinuate that maybe Broaddrick wasn’t really alleging rape; I tend to see it as understandable reluctance to “own” rape as a personal experience.
In my own case, the offender was a person I’d known since childhood. I told no one for months, and when I eventually confided in a few close friends it was through a cloud of alcohol rather than deliberate disclosure. It took a long time working with dear friends and a wonderful therapist before I could accept the word “rape” for what had happened to me. It took many more months to shed the guilt I felt in believing I had caused it to happen, and for the recurring nightmares to stop. It took even longer to let go of the anger that eventually surfaced in my consciousness. In fact, by the time I reached the height of my anger phase, the statute of limitations had passed, precluding me from attempting revenge or remedy through civil or criminal action. Even if the statistic floated by feminists that one in four women suffers rape overestimates the actual number, even one is too many. The trite phrase “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” truly means something when it comes to experiencing rape, because for a while you feel as if a part of you has died, and recovering means finding a new, stronger life and identity.
I have my own theories now about what might have made my attacker treat me the way he did, and my best guesses explain a lot about why I was convinced for a long time that I’d brought it on myself. The guilt was soul-crushing. Broaddrick says her attacker left the scene with the words “You’d better get some ice on that.” Mine left with the words, “Love you.” You don’t forget those words in a moment like that, and no matter what they are, they tend to leave you feeling somehow degraded, dirty, and disposable.
Broaddrick talked about not coming forward because she didn’t think anyone would believe her, and because she felt shame and fear about being perceived dishonorably due to the affair she was having at the time with the man who would later become her second husband. My reasons – instincts, more like – for keeping silent were a bit different, but also centered on shame and fear. I don’t think I worried that family or friends wouldn’t believe me, but I did feel entirely responsible and hated the thought of anyone I cared about thinking of me in some way tainted by involvement in something so ugly. Nor was I eager to invite conversations or questions about my sex life. The thought of going to the police was humiliating, and anyway, it was my word against his. I had no proof.
Broaddrick says she and her then-husband talked about whether she should come forward while her rapist was running for president. They decided it was better for her not to. On balance, she thought, it could bring nothing good to her life. Though I’ve never heard rumors of the person who raped me aspiring to be president of the United States, I have no desire now to hold him accountable in a public way. I still feel like I knew this person very well, and I long ago trekked the road of forgiveness and arrived with a sense of confidence that this person would never repeat that behavior. If I had been raped by a more-or-less stranger, maybe I wouldn’t have that kind of confidence and would feel a sense of responsibility to other actual or potential victims to step forward and make his past behavior public knowledge.
I’d known this person for such a long time that we had many mutual acquaintances, and for quite a while I heard his name and saw his face much too often. Juanita Broaddrick had to live in a country where her rapist’s face, voice, and image surrounded her all through the ’90s. That kind of constant reminder might have pushed me over the edge to full disclosure, too. She admits to lying under oath, denying the rape in an affidavit for the Paula Jones case. I wasn’t under oath, but I once lied to protect the person who raped me – to a federal investigator doing a background check on this person for a job.
Broaddrick says her rapist once confronted her in person and apologized for what he’d done. She told him to go to hell. The person who raped me apologized too, many months later, over the phone. I just cried.
Most mentions of her experience also included the criticism that she can’t remember the month of the alleged rape. Neither can I. You’d think a person would remember the exact hour, day, month, and year of something like that. You’d think. Except that’s just it; you’re not navigating through the experience with your head. You go through it with your body and your heart and soul. So I can say with certainty precisely where I was, the colors in the room, the tone of his voice, what I felt in each moment. But I cannot for the life of me say with certainty whether it happened in October, November, or December. I guess that’s just me. Well, and Juanita Broaddrick.
It’s just her word against his. No possibility of legal action for the rape itself, so no possibility of any evidence other than her story. None of us were present that fateful day, and I realize that some people falsely accuse others of crimes, but I also recognize sparks of authenticity in Broaddrick’s story.
No one wants to think of Bill Clinton as a monster. But the possibility or plausibility of Juanita Broaddrick’s story doesn’t force a conclusion as black and white as that. Rape is always a horrific crime, but not all rapists are horrific people. Women consistently describe Clinton as charming, boyish, good-natured, fun-loving. That can be a genuine side of a person coexisting with a darker side of the same person. Years after the incident, Clinton took Broaddrick’s hands in his and tried to apologize for what he’d done, assuring her he was now a different person.
Hopefully that’s true. I don’t believe the person who assaulted me is a monster. Far from it; I’d known him as a kind, eventempered, patient man with an easy sense of humor, and before the actual assault I’d never seen a clue of that kind of contempt or rage from him. Believing Juanita Broaddrick doesn’t mean painting Bill Clinton as an evil human being who doesn’t deserve to draw another breath. Very few people are entirely good or entirely evil. Believing Juanita Broaddrick, or even conceding that she might be telling the truth, for our purposes adds a final dimension to our look at how liberal politics influenced Clinton’s behavior.
The core mistreatment aspect of Juanita Broaddrick’s experience with Bill Clinton is almost the polar opposite of his mistreatment of women like Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Sally Perdue, and Gennifer Flowers. The latter three women didn’t suffer mistreatment sexually, but found themselves variously mistreated in the aftermath. Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey experienced unwanted sexual advances, but neither alleged unwanted sex. Juanita Broaddrick isn’t the only woman ever rumored to accuse Bill Clinton of rape, but she is the only woman who has confirmed her claims publicly. Clinton didn’t go through the trouble of smearing Broaddrick’s reputation as he did with other women, but he didn’t really have to; with no fear of legal or political repercussions, he ignored her and moved on, and he surely hopes we will ignore her, too. Her story faded quickly from the front pages, though – in the words of Charles Krauthammer – it is still “lingering, subterranean.” What does it mean that we may have permitted a rapist to run the free world for eight years? Former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris may have had the most incisive one-liner in the wake of Juanita Broaddrick’s public allegations: “If you’re going to be a sexual predator, be pro-choice.”
A credible accusation of rape against any ostensible leader should be devastating, but against a leader held up as a champion for women it should have been shocking. As we’ve seen, though, not many were shocked by Juanita Broaddrick’s story. Sickened, perhaps, and maybe even angrier at Republicans for attacking Clinton than at Clinton himself, but few people found themselves so stunned that they could dismiss the story out of hand. One journalist said bluntly, “The president is accused of rape and nobody is shocked.” Of course, the appropriate adjectives were used to report Broaddrick’s story: horrific, terrible, monstrous; but after about two weeks her name and story faded into near-oblivion, even though the name and story of her attacker remained one of the most visible in all the world.
Not that equal fame or celebrity is what Juanita Broaddrick wanted for herself. In fact, she did all she could for two decades to avoid reliving or being questioned about her attack. But since she did come forward, I’m on the side of Dorothy Rabinowitz, who intoned that history has the right and responsibility to take her story into account when it evaluates the man who became our 42nd president. In some ways, Juanita Broaddrick is like all other rape victims, but in other ways, the identity of her rapist places her in a category of her own, with unique burdens. Most rape victims don’t face the knowledge that their attacker is poised to grace the pages of history books, possibly painted as some kind of hero, for generations to come. Most rape victims don’t have to stomach their attacker being heralded as the best thing to happen to women since the right to vote, much less hear about him selling 400,000 copies of his legacy-obsessed memoirs in just one day.
With Juanita Broaddrick’s story, we find ourselves back where we started: is it pure hypocrisy, driven solely by personal weakness, that propels a person so devoted to so-called women’s issues in the political realm to be such a calloused abuser of women in his individual relations with them? Bill Clinton’s victimization of Juanita Broaddrick certainly manifests psychological, emotional, and personal issues on Clinton’s part, but it also illustrates a central feature of liberalism that can induce such raw, violent mistreatment of women.
Modern liberalism paradoxically aligns itself with force to bring about goals of peace. This intrinsic paradox dooms liberalism’s goals of world peace and global equality from the start. The rhetorical aims of leftism actually comport nicely with the message of Jesus Christ and other religious figures. Love your neighbor, care for the widows and orphans among you, make no distinctions between “Jew nor Gentile, male nor female,” turn the other cheek, judge not lest ye be judged, and so forth. Imagine how beautiful our world today could be if we had spent the past 2,000 years practicing those lofty principles (regardless of whether every one of us revered Christ as God). As a code of morality, those principles encourage us to treat each other with genuine kindness, respect, and love. We cannot prevent every natural disaster or calamity, but we bear responsibility for creating much of the trauma that fills our modern world by refusing to practice love, tolerance, and kindness.
But Christ spoke to people’s hearts; he didn’t suggest that his teachings ought to become the law of the land imposed on people by force. In fact, he recognized that such an effort is ultimately futile: you can use force to bully people into changing their acts, but you can’t force people to change their innermost desires, intents, thoughts, or feelings. A change in the latter is only possible through an individualized, conscience-driven spiritual process. It cannot be imposed by other people; Christ made this clear when he proclaimed, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” Yet the use of force to try to change people’s hearts is precisely what political ideologues have attempted to do throughout history, sometimes out of a raw, inhumane desire for power but often out of good intentions to improve society by forcing people to do the right thing. Many admirable parallels exist between liberalism’s central values and those propounded by Jesus Christ. Liberalism’s exaltation of equality, fairness, and peace echo St. Paul’s exhortation of “faith, hope, and love.” The core values espoused by liberalism comprise an ancient set of moral tenets that, whenever they have been practiced, make the world a better place. But here’s the harsh reality that makes liberalism a dangerous ideology: politics isn’t about morality.
Genuine morality must be voluntary, or it’s no longer morality. Forcing you to choose correctly is no moral victory on your part because you had no real choice. And politics is always a discussion about how and when to use force. To pass a law, regulation, tax increase, or program always involves using force or the threat of force to bring it about. If politics is about enforcing morality, the paradox emerges: genuine morality cannot be achieved by force. To liberal ideology, politics is about enforcing values. Therein lies the problem.
The values of leftism fit comfortably within a moral code, but they have no place in a political ideology. Liberalism’s morality finds itself inevitably corrupted by association with political force, just as Christ’s message has at times found itself corrupted by an unholy alliance between church and state. This is not to say that politics doesn’t involve ethics. But there is a crucial distinction between morality and ethics. Every individual person needs a moral code to guide her beliefs and actions, but selection and practice of such a code needs to remain solely the province of her own conscience or else it isn’t genuine morality. Every political system needs a code of ethics to guide it, but political ethics differ from personal morality. Personal morality tells us what we should choose; political ethics tell us what we are permitted to choose.
When it comes to political ethics, the rules should be made according to the rights of everyone involved – and each of us possesses identical rights to own and use our own lives and property. That leaves each of us free to apply our own moral precepts to the problems of life and strive to make the world a better place using every nonviolent means at our disposal. No matter how noble the purpose, advocating the initiation of force against our fellow human beings can only perpetuate a culture of violence, dominance, and control, placing a world based on peace, partnership, and cooperation further out of reach. In a person psychologically or emotionally predisposed to mistreat women, attachment to liberal ideology can reinforce misogyny because of liberalism’s advocacy of political force as an appropriate way to impose values. The political conviction that your ideology permits you to initiate force against citizens in order to mold their behavior can translate into a personal conviction that you can justifiably initiate force against a woman to wrangle submission from her.
It does not require a stretch of the imagination to surmise that Clinton’s political convictions instilled in him a belief that he could justifiably initiate force against a woman if she somehow threatened his ability to impose acceptable values on society. Juanita Broaddrick knows in her heart that Bill Clinton found himself capable of using the most egregious display of force possible against a woman. Many who have spoken with Juanita – including this author – believe her. Her credible accusation should leave us all disturbed at the thought that we put a rapist in the White House. Her story should encourage us all to think carefully about the connection between misogyny and liberalism, and whether we really want another Clinton presidency.
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