I must admit, when I clicked this morning on Vox’s ”explainer” of Juanita Broaddrick’s rape allegation against Bill Clinton, I expected a whitewash. I was wrong. Not only did Dylan Matthews do an excellent job laying out the story, he reminded me of a number of details I’d forgotten.
Her story is infuriating, painting a picture of casual, callous brutality. Broaddrick, then a Clinton gubernatorial campaign volunteer, claims that Clinton asked to switch a planned meeting from a hotel lobby to her hotel room. After a few minutes of small talk, Broaddrick says that Clinton began kissing her. She resisted Clinton’s advances, but he “pulled her back onto the bed and forcibly had sex with her.” During the alleged attack, he bit her lip. When he saw that it was bruised and swollen, she claims he said, “You better get some ice on that.” Then he “put on his sunglasses and walked out the door.”
I’d forgotten, however, how many people Broaddrick told after the incident:
Several friends of Broaddrick’s backed up the story. Norma Rogers, who was the director of nursing at Broaddrick’s nursing home at the time, told reporters that she entered the hotel room shortly after the assault allegedly took place and “found Mrs. Broaddrick crying and in ‘a state of shock.’ Her upper lip was puffed out and blue, and appeared to have been hit.” Kelsey elaborated to the New York Times, “She told me he forced himself on her, forced her to have intercourse.”
In the Dateline show, Broaddrick’s friends Louise Ma, Susan Lewis, and Jean Darden (Norma Rogers’s sister) all told NBC News that Broaddrick told them Bill Clinton raped her at the time. David Broaddrick — with whom Broaddrick was having an affair at the time; they both eventually left their spouses to marry each other — also told NBC that Broaddrick’s top lip was black after the alleged incident, and that she told him “that she had been raped by Bill Clinton.”
Then there are Broaddrick’s allegations that Hillary not-so-subtly thanked her for her silence:
About six months after her initial interviews in 1999, Broaddrick told the Drudge Report that mere weeks after the alleged assault, Hillary Clinton had tried to thank her for her silence on the matter at a political rally:
“[Hillary] 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.”
This wasn’t included in the initial reports on Broaddrick’s story by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, and NBC News. But after this article’s initial publication, Lisa Myers, who conducted NBC News’ initial report on Broaddrick, wrote Vox to clarify that Broaddrick did tell NBC that Hillary Clinton confronted her after the alleged assault, though this did not make the final cut of the Dateline segment. So this was not an new addition to or change in Broaddrick’s story, even though it became public months later.
Matthews doesn’t just analyze Broaddrick’s allegations, he also evaluates Clinton’s defenses, and finds the denials less-than-compelling. He approvingly quotes Slate’s Michelle Goldberg:
Our rules for talking about sexual assault have changed since the 1990s, when these women were last in the news. Today, feminists have repeatedly and convincingly made the case that when women say they’ve been sexually assaulted, we should assume they’re telling the truth. Particularly when it comes to Broaddrick, it’s not easy to square the arguments against believing her with the dominant progressive consensus on trusting victims.
We will probably never know the truth of what happened between Broaddrick and Clinton. But today, few feminists would find her shifting story disqualifying. Consider, also, another piece of evidence that was marshaled against Broaddrick in the 1990s: Three weeks after the alleged assault, she attended a fundraiser for Clinton. Speaking to Klein, she says she was traumatized and blamed herself for what happened. “I felt responsible. I don’t know if you know the mentality of women and men at that time. But me letting him come to my room? I accepted full blame.” In any other context, most feminists today would find this credible. After all, many were outraged when rape skeptics tried to discredit Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz because she’d sent friendly Facebook messages to her alleged rapist after the alleged rape.
Donald Trump’s direct attack on Clinton’s history of “he said, she said, she said, she said” sexual abuse allegations has been devastating. Mainstream and liberal media outlets have been forced to run piece after piece reminding older progressives and educating younger progressives about allegations that make Clinton look like a sexual predator halfway between Eliot Spitzer and Bill Cosby. And — truth be told — only Trump could have pulled this off. He doesn’t care about the media’s attempts to hector him into silence, and their addiction to his television presence means that he has far more opportunity to explain himself in his own words than any other GOP candidate — perhaps in history.
The present news cycle will pass, but unless Hillary sidelines the Democrats’ most popular ex-president, her “war on women” rhetoric is now subject to a devastating response. And for those who’ve never seen Broaddrick tell the story in her own words, here’s the original NBC News report: