On January 6, a ghost from Hillary Clinton’s past stirred:
“I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me,” Juanita Broaddrick tweeted from her home in Van Buren, Ark. “I am now 73. . . . it never goes away.”
I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73….it never goes away.— Juanita Broaddrick (@atensnut) January 6, 2016
For Hillary Clinton, who a month earlier had tweeted, “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported,” and who has made her record on “women’s issues” (as her website phrases it) central to her campaign, Broaddrick’s tweet is the stuff of nightmare. Faulkner might have been writing directly to the Clintons when he warned: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
In the catalogue of accusations against Bill Clinton — a litany that includes names such as Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey — Broaddrick’s stands out. It remains not only the most credible accusation against Clinton and the most serious. It is also the one about which the Clintons have said the least. The entire record of the Clintons’ response to Broaddrick’s allegations amounts to one line, from President Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall in 1999: “Any allegation that the president assaulted Juanita Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false.”
The entire record of the Clintons’ response to Broaddrick’s allegations amounts to one line, in 1999.
In a now-famous interview with Dateline NBC’s Lisa Myers, which aired on February 24, 1999, Broaddrick laid out her accusation in full for the first time. Broaddrick first met Bill Clinton in April 1978, when he visited her nursing home, Brownwood Manor, during a stop on his gubernatorial campaign. She says Clinton invited her to visit him at the campaign’s headquarters should she ever make it to Little Rock, two-and-a-half hours southeast.
Shortly after, when she visited the state capital in late April for a nursing-home conference, she called him. According to Broaddrick, Clinton suggested that they meet in the coffee shop of her hotel — the Camelot, now the Doubletree. When he arrived, though, he said there were too many reporters and asked if they could go up to her room. Broaddrick told Myers that the request made her “a little bit uneasy,” but that she didn’t think she was in any danger. “I thought it was professional, completely.”
Inside, and at the room’s window, which Broaddrick recalled look down on the Arkansas River, Clinton pointed to a small building, a prison, and said he hoped to renovate it when he became governor. “Then all of a sudden, he turned me around and started kissing me.” As she recounted to NBC:
I first pushed him away and just told him “No, please don’t do that,” and I forget, it’s been 21 years, Lisa, and I forget exactly what he was saying. It seems like he was making statements that would relate to “Did you not know why I was coming up here?” and I told him at the time, I said, “I’m married, and I have other things going on in my life, and this is something that I’m not interested in. . . .
Then he tries to kiss me again. And the second time he tries to kiss me he starts biting my lip [she cries]. Just a minute . . . He starts to, um, bite on my top lip and I tried to pull away from him. [crying] And then he forces me down on 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 [crying] but he wouldn’t listen to me.
After the assault, “He walks to the door, and calmly puts on his sunglasses,” Broaddrick said. “And before he goes out the door he says, ‘You better get some ice on that.’” And then he left.
Seven years before Broaddrick’s accusation, a different woman — Anita Hill — had leveled an accusation of sexual harassment at another public figure: then–D.C. circuit judge and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill, who had worked under Thomas when he was at the Department of Education and later at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleged that Thomas had “pressed” her to go out with him socially, and later “talked about pornographic materials” and “his own sexual prowess” in the office, making Hill “extremely uncomfortable.”
Compared with Broaddrick’s, that accusation was mild. In her initial Senate testimony, Hill only went so far as to call it “offensive behavior.” But Hill found a stalwart backer in one Hillary Clinton, then the wife of the “boy governor” of Arkansas, who one week before the allegation broke had announced his campaign for the presidency.
Hill’s accusation was entirely unsupported. The only person to publicly back Hill’s claim, Angela Wright, was rejected as unreliable by the Senate Judiciary Committee before she could testify, and Hill’s own testimony altered during a grilling by then–Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter, who said afterward that he believed Hill had committed “flat-out perjury.” Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, noted that after the period of alleged harassment, Hill made personal visits to Thomas, breakfasted with him, dined with him (twice), rode alone in a car with him, and initiated eleven calls to him between 1984 and 1987.
Juanita Broaddrick’s claim was supported by not one but five witnesses and a host of circumstantial (though no physical) evidence.
Yet at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in August 1992, the future first lady hailed Hill as someone who had “transformed consciousness and changed history with her courageous testimony.” “All women who care about equality of opportunity, about integrity and morality in the workplace are in Professor Anita Hill’s debt,” she added. That was ten months after Thomas had declared the confirmation proceedings a “high-tech lynching” and the Senate had confirmed him to the bench.
By contrast, Juanita Broaddrick’s claim was supported by not one but five witnesses and a host of circumstantial (though no physical) evidence. Broaddrick’s colleague Norma Rogers, who was attending the conference in Little Rock with her, says she found Broaddrick in her hotel room crying and “in a state of shock” on the morning of the alleged assault, her pantyhose torn and her lip swollen. According to Rogers, Broaddrick told her that Bill Clinton had “forced himself on her.”
At the time, Broaddrick (then Juanita Hickey) was having an affair with David Broaddrick, who would become her second husband. David Broaddrick told Dateline NBC that he remembers Juanita’s arriving home with a swollen lip and telling him that she had been assaulted by Bill Clinton.
And three other friends — Susan Lewis, Louis Ma, and Norma Rogers’s sister Jean Darden — all maintain that Broaddrick told them about the rape, too. (Rogers and Darden stand by their stories but have pointed out that they have an apparent conflict of interest: As governor, Clinton commuted the life sentence of the man who murdered their father.)
Two small details lend particular credence to Broaddrick’s story.
First, the lip. In 1998, after previously denying any such rumors, actress Elizabeth Gracen admitted to having a one-night stand with Bill Clinton in 1982. She claimed that, during rough sexual intercourse, Clinton bit her lip.
Second, in an account of the assault given to the Wall Street Journal and published shortly before her NBC interview, Broaddrick made the peculiar claim that Clinton told her she need not worry about becoming pregnant. He was sterile, he said, from a childhood case of mumps. Gennifer Flowers, who in 1992 claimed to have had a twelve-year sexual relationship with Clinton in the 1970s and 1980s, and Dolly Kyle Browning, who claims a three-decade affair with Bill, both told The Weekly Standard that Clinton told them he had a fertility problem. And in his book Blood Sport, James Stewart reported that Bill and Hillary “contemplated a visit to a doctor at the University of California” in the late 1970s, because they were worried that they could not conceive.
All of this evidence — far more than was ever present in the Anita Hill case — was available in 1999. But Hillary Clinton kept silent. And she may have intimidated Broaddrick into silence.
She came directly to me as soon as she hit the door. I had been there only a few minutes, I only wanted to make an appearance and leave. She caught me and took my hand and said: “I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill.” I started to turn away and she held onto my hand and reiterated her phrase — looking less friendly and repeated her statement — “Everything you do for Bill.” I said nothing. She wasn’t letting me get away until she made her point. She talked low, the smile faded on the second thank you. I just released her hand from mine and left the gathering.
Broaddrick had related the episode to NBC, but it had been nixed in the cutting room. In 2003, in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Broaddrick repeated the story, adding: “I could have passed out at that moment. . . . Cold chills went up my spine. That’s the first time I became afraid of that woman.”
Years after that encounter, in 1984, Broaddrick — who in the meantime had accepted a position to a state board (before she knew it was a gubernatorial appointment, she says) — received a letter from Clinton recognizing her nursing home for its work. At the bottom, the governor had handwritten: “I admire you very much.” Broaddrick interpreted that as a thank-you for her silence.
The consistency of Broaddrick’s account over the years, and the correspondence of her account with that of the multiple witnesses, has been difficult for critics to explain away. Additionally, there is documentation of Broaddrick’s presence at the Camelot Hotel in April 1978 — for a nursing-home conference, as she claims. Moreover, she took no money to make her accusation, unlike Flowers, who netted $500,000 from broadcasting her allegations in Penthouse and other publications. Many have retreated to arguing that Clinton probably did have sex with Broaddrick, but it was consensual. Broaddrick, for her part, has never retreated from her claim.
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Clinton’s stauncher defenders seize on two apparent inconsistencies: Broaddrick’s reluctance to come forward about the assault (she waited more than 20 years) and an affidavit she signed in 1998 declaring: “I do not have any information to offer regarding a nonconsensual or unwelcome sexual advance by Mr. Clinton.” The first is no discrepancy at all. The unwillingness of rape victims to admit their assault is a well-known phenomenon — and one that Hillary Clinton and others acknowledged when they readily supported Anita Hill, whose accusations, when they were first aired, were ten years old.
The question of the affidavit is more interesting. In November 1997, Rick and Beverly Lambert, private investigators hired by Paula Jones’s legal team, secretly recorded a conversation they had with Juanita Broaddrick on her doorstep in Van Buren. Broaddrick was not amenable to being interviewed, but the reasons she offered were noteworthy: “Oh, bad things, I can’t even begin to tell you,” she says at one point. “It’s not pleasant and I won’t even go into it. . . . It’s very private. We’re talking about something 20 years ago. . . . It’s just that was a long time ago and I don’t want to relive it.” When the Lamberts suggest that the accusations of sexual misconduct might harm Clinton, Broaddrick says: “Well, there’s just absolutely no way that anyone can get to him, he’s just too vicious.”
‘I was afraid that I would be destroyed like so many of the other women have been.’
That is the same language Broaddrick would use two years later during her NBC interview when, describing the moment of the rape, she said, “He [Bill] was such a different person at that moment. He was just a vicious, awful person.” And in explaining to Lisa Myers why she had not reported her assault to authorities, Broaddrick said: “I didn’t think anyone would believe me in the world. . . . I was also afraid what would happen to me if I came forward. I was afraid that I would be destroyed like so many of the other women have been.” The consistencies between this recording and Broaddrick’s later interview are particularly noteworthy given that Broaddrick did not know she was being recorded.
And it may not have been the first time Broaddrick was secretly recorded. In 1992, Phillip Yoakum, an Arkansas businessman, learned of Broaddrick’s assault from one of her colleagues. Yoakum penned a letter, encouraging Broaddrick to go public with her charge. The letter was widely circulated among Republicans, who hoped to use it to puncture Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential hopes. In October, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times got wind of a story “that a nursing-home executive had been sexually assaulted in 1978 by Bill Clinton,” as the New York Times later wrote. But both papers passed, dismissing it as a hoax.
Yoakum claimed to have secretly recorded a conversation with Broaddrick in which she outlined her allegation. He never revealed any such recording, but in her conversation with the Lamberts, Broaddrick mentions in passing: “I thought maybe ya’ll had gotten the recording and that’s the reason you came.” In other words, she worried that they had learned about the allegations she made in that conversation, which, as noted above, she makes clear she does not want to discuss.
Skeptics cite Broaddrick’s 1998 affidavit as a decisive inconsistency. (Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal points to it in his memoir The Clinton Wars.) But, in fact, it appears to be little more than an explicable anomaly. In 1978, in 1992, in 1997, and in 1999, in public and in private, Broaddrick’s story is generally consistent. By contrast, Anita Hill’s testimony broke down in a matter of hours.
Unlike Anita Hill, Broaddrick was never lauded by Hillary Clinton for “transforming consciousness” or offering “courageous testimony.”
Instead, she was audited. In the summer of 2000, Bill’s last year in the White House, the nursing home Broaddrick had operated for a quarter-century was selected for additional scrutiny by the IRS — to Broaddrick’s bewilderment: “Our business has not changed in any way — no change in ownership, no change in anything,” Broaddrick told The Weekly Standard. “I can’t imagine what would draw someone’s attention to my business.” Coincidentally, both Paula Jones and Elizabeth Gracen also scored IRS audits during the Clinton years.
It has now been 17 years since Juanita Broaddrick went public with her accusation, and 38 years since the alleged assault. She has largely receded from the public eye that she never wanted to attract in the first place.
But the Clintons have not. Hillary Clinton, despite an investigation by the FBI, remains the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic party, and it is not at all unlikely that Bill Clinton might find himself back in the White House, albeit in a different role.
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Broaddrick hates the thought of it. Seeing the Clintons on front pages and magazine covers again: “It’s so difficult,” she tells me from her home in Van Buren. And of the former secretary of state’s tweet about believing survivors of assault, she exclaims: “Shame on you, Hillary! Shame on you! How could you tweet out something like that when you know we’re all still here, and we’ve tried to come forward?”
Broaddrick confesses that she no longer recalls every detail. “Well! I haven’t thought about him in years!” she says when I ask about Phillip Yoakum. She doesn’t remember if they ever talked or about a secret recording in the early 1990s.But her story has not changed. When I ask about the affidavit, she says just what she told Lisa Myers in 1999: “I wanted to stay in the background. I didn’t want the publicity regarding it. I just did not want to come forward.”
And Hillary? When Bill’s wife shook her hand in 1978, was she trying to send a message? “There was no doubt in my mind. It not only shocked me, it made me very frightened. The smile dropped, and the intonation of her voice, it was very cold. She knew what he had done to me, and she was saying, ‘Thank you very much for keeping quiet.’”
I ask Broaddrick what happens now — now that she and her story are back in the news. “I honestly do not know where things go from here,” she says. “I can tell you I’m not political. I have no political interest whatsoever. My only interest is in making sure the Clintons don’t get back into the White House. I know nothing about politics. All I know is what happened in that room in 1978, and what happened two weeks later, when she threatened me.”
“I sat for about an hour with my Twitter account,” she adds. “I sat there for the longest time and thought, ‘Don’t do this.’ But I did it. And I’m glad I did.”
— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.