I have always believed Juanita Broaddrick, and have written that repeatedly over the years.
(For starters, here and here, also revisiting how despicably the then-Clinton volunteer who accused Bill Clinton of raping her was treated here, the many problems our willfully blind eye towards the Big Dog’s predations caused here and here and here, Hillary Clinton’s treatment of her husband’s accusers here and here, and her gleeful legal defense of an accused rapist here.)
As Chicago-based journalist Amy Sullivan tweeted, this week, “some of us disliked Bill Clinton at the time because of his harasser ways, and for our efforts were told we were prudes who needed to grow up.” Sure, because why else would we object to his abuse of power?
Even richer was the then-near universal belief on the left that the correct feminist response was this one, from ultimate shero Gloria Steinem, who wrote in The New York Times that the Clinton accuser she came closest to believing was Kathleen Willey, and, “even if the allegations are true, the president is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took “no” for an answer.
In her original story, Paula Jones essentially said the same thing. She went to then-Gov. Clinton’s hotel room, where she said he asked her to perform oral sex and even dropped his trousers. She refused, and even she claims that he said something like, ‘Well, I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to do.’… As with the allegations in Ms. Willey’s case, Mr. Clinton seems to have made a clumsy sexual pass, then accepted rejection.”
To review, waving your penis at an employee you met moments earlier does not constitute sexual harassment, and neither does cornering and groping a volunteer.
To have believed the women, on the other hand, was actually seen as a betrayal of the sisterhood, and those who think Donald Trump invented upside-down world need to meditate on that.
Only now, with the post-Weinstein silence about sexual aggression finally shattered do we see any reappraisal of the former president’s behavior towards women. But if we’re going to do this — and it’s long past time that we did — let’s do it without shading, grading or hesitating.
New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg writes that she does believes Broaddrick, but with qualifications, and without breaking the political frame of these stories that’s so limited our progress on assault and harassment.
“Democrats are guilty of apologizing for Clinton when they shouldn’t have. At the same time, looking back at the smear campaign against the Clintons shows we can’t treat the feminist injunction to ‘believe women’ as absolute.” With right-wingers hoking up even murder charges against the Clintons — and yes, those accusations were crazy — “it would have been absurd to take accusations of assault and harassment made against Clinton at face value.” Face value, no. But taken seriously while fully investigating, yes.
Of Willey’s charge that then-President Clinton groped her and pushed her hand to his crotch, Goldberg writes, “It sounds both familiar and plausible. But Willey also accused the Clintons of having her husband and then her cat killed. Must we believe that, too?” No, but as any sex crime investigator will tell you, real victims can be mistaken in some respects. And in an email to me, Willey responded that, “Just for the record, I NEVER accused the Clintons of killing my husband, although the fact has crossed my mind.”
“Similarly,’’ the Times columnist says, “there are reasons to be at least unsure about Paula Jones’s claim that Clinton exposed himself to her and demanded oral sex. Jones was championed by people engaged in what Ann Coulter once proudly called ‘a small, intricately knit right-wing conspiracy’ to bring down the president. She described ‘distinguishing characteristics’ of Clinton’s penis that turned out to be inaccurate. Her sister insisted to Sidney Blumenthal, then a New Yorker writer, that she was lying.”
One of her two sisters supported Jones, who only came forward after she was defamed in an article for which David Brock later apologized. Her other sister, Charlotte Brown, whom I also interviewed at the time, didn’t say Jones was lying about the penis-waving, but that her daft baby sister had taken an affront as a compliment she hoped to monetize: “Mrs. Brown is one of several people who says that Ms. Jones told her Mr. Clinton asked her for oral sex. But Mrs. Brown said her sister was excited, not horrified, that the governor had made a pass and been refused. The way Mrs. Brown tells it, Ms. Jones, then 24, seemed to have still been young enough to have believed that men make even the crudest advances out of genuine romantic interest.”
Goldberg asks, “Should feminists have backed her anyway? I’m still not sure, but the evidence was less definitive than that against Harvey Weinstein, Trump or Moore.”
Will we ever get to the point where we just say, without any comparisons or hedging, that Bill Clinton and Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore and Donald Trump all behaved unacceptably, period? If not, even now we risk going on and on this way, forward to nowhere.