Reality Check: Did Hillary Clinton attack her husband’s accusers?
During the second presidential debate, Donald Trump responded to revelations that he made derogatory remarks about women with a full-throated charge that Hillary Clinton had attacked women who had accused her husband of sexual assault over the past four-plus decades.
“Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously,” said Trump.
What’s the truth here? Did she? Let’s look at the cases one-by-one.
One of the women, Juanita Broaddrick, had accused Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978 when he was attorney general of Arkansas. Broaddrick’s allegation that Hillary Clinton warned her to remain silent about the rape stems from an encounter she had with Hillary Clinton at a fund raiser that same year. In an interview with the website, Breitbart, last week, Broaddrick recalled how Hillary Clinton held her hand and said to her, “I just want you to know how much Bill and I appreciate the things you do for him. Do you understand? Everything you do.”
Broaddrick told Breitbart: “What really went through my mind at that time is ‘She knows. She knew. She’s covering it up and she expects me to do the very same thing.”
Broaddrick did not initially report the alleged assault to law enforcement, but she did make the claim in interviews with the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Years later, she was subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. As part of her testimony, she signed an affidavit denying that Clinton sexually assaulted her.
She later recanted that denial when interviewed by investigators from Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s office. But, House managers chose not to call her as a witness in the case to impeach President Bill Clinton.
In a February 1999 NBC interview, correspondent Lisa Myers asked Broaddrick, “did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?”
Broaddrick answered: “no.”
As the 1992 presidential primary campaign got under way, the former lounge singer asserted that she had had a long-running affair will Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton stirred up controversy when she told ABC News that Gennifer Flowers was “some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t have much of a resume to fall back on.”
The New York Times recently reported that, by some accounts, Clinton gave the “greenlight” to hiring a private investigator who collected disparaging accounts from ex-boyfriends and others who knew Flowers and then provided these stories to news organizations.
Internal campaign memos unearthed by the Times describe the aim of the work of the hard-nosed investigator was to “impugn” Flowers’ character, “until she is destroyed beyond all recognition.”
But the New York Times reporting was not clear how involved Hillary Clinton was in this effort.
Yes, Hillary Clinton did call Monica Lewinsky, who had an affair with her husband, a “narcissistic loony toon.”
That phrase is from a journal kept by Diane Blair, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas and a person Hillary Clinton described as her closest friend.
Blair, who died in 2000, kept notes of her conversations with Clinton. After Blair’s death, her husband donated her papers, including her personal journal, to the University of Arkansas Special Collections Library. Blair wrote in her journal, about a September 9, 1998, conversation she had with her friend, in which Clinton tried to put his actions into context, but did not excuse, her husband’s behavior. But, Clinton also had harsh words about Lewinsky who had said she had seduced the president.
“It was a lapse,” Blair writes, describing Clinton’s view of her husband’s affair, “but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon;’ but it was beyond control.”
So it is true that Hillary Clinton used an ugly description of Lewinsky. But, it is also true that this was made in a private conversation with a confidante. It was not a public statement made in a speech, a tweet, an interview or to Lewinsky’s face. As such, it is difficult to make the argument that Clinton was trying to humiliate or bully Lewinsky by making this statement.
Willey, a former White House aide, charged that Bill Clinton fondled her in 1993. She later told the Daily Caller that the Clintons tried to intimidate her into not telling the truth in court. Her evidence was a lunch between Clinton supporter Sidney Blumenthal and reporter Christopher Hitchens during which Blumenthal reportedly said of Willey, “well she looks good today … she’s not going to look good by Friday.”
Willey also asserted that she found a dead cat on her porch, spotted a man under her deck one night and a person in her neighborhood asking about her children.
Bill Clinton entered into an $850,000 settlement with Jones, an Arkansas state worker who alleged that in 1991, he propositioned her and exposed himself. We have not uncovered instances of Hillary Clinton directly attacking Jones after she filed suit in 1994. But Jones recently told The New York Times that after her lawsuit, “they sent out people to dig up trash on me.”
So it is clear that Hillary Clinton reacted in what could be seen as negative ways. According to some accounts, she at the very least went along with the hiring of a private investigator to look into the background of Gennifer Flowers. Some see her reaction as especially problematic coming from a person who promotes herself as a champion of women.
Still, Broaddrick’s example of intimidation is open to interpretation, and is weakened by her answer to NBC that no one “near Bill Clinton” had tried to intimidate her. Willey is not able to link the incidents that occurred directly or indirectly to Hillary Clinton. The comments Clinton made about Lewinsky were spoken in private to a close confidante. And Paula Jones has not pointed to a specific attack.
All, in all, we think Trump’s blanket charge that Clinton “viciously” attacked these women to be an exaggeration too far.