The greatest trick Bill Clinton ever pulled was convincing the world to forget about Juanita Broaddrick.
In 2014, Larry King claimed he’d never even heard of Juanita Broaddrick.
“Hold up,” King told conservative TV host Steve Malzberg. “Stop! Bill Clinton was accused of rape?”
It’s a pretty piece of devilry. As Bill Cosby slumps pathetically in the ashes of his career, Bill Clinton—a man accused of unwanted groping, aggressive sexual advances, and, yes, a 1978 rape—is still at the top of his game. Now, thanks to the clumsy ascendancy of his partner Hillary, Bill could soon be moving back into the White House.
For Bill Clinton—and Bill Clinton alone—the outrage machine is silent.
Here’s what Larry King and others seem to have forgotten: In 1999, Juanita Broaddrick told Dateline NBC that 21 years earlier, in the spring of 1978, then-gubernatorial candidate Bill Clinton raped her in her Little Rock hotel room. Broaddrick cried while telling the story to NBC’s Lisa Myers and admitted that at some point during the encounter, after repeatedly saying no, she “stopped resisting.” But, she said, “it was not consensual.”
Clinton’s attorney denied the accusation. Several pundits publicly questioned Broaddrick’s story, pointing to her attendance at a Clinton campaign event after the alleged incident as proof she was a liar, asking why she waited so long to accuse Clinton publicly and why she’d denied any sexual relationship when subpoenaed by Paula Jones’ attorneys. Skeptics even used the doubts of Broaddrick’s ex-husband, a man Broaddrick says abused her, as evidence of her unreliability.
For the record, five of Broaddrick’s friends confirmed to NBC that she told them about the rape immediately after it happened, including a woman named Norma Rogers Kelsey, who was sharing Broaddrick’s hotel room. Kelsey told NBC that when the two women separated in the morning, Broaddrick said she was going to meet up with Clinton. When Kelsey later returned to the room, Broaddrick’s lip was swollen, her pantyhose were torn off, and she was crying.
Also for the record, Broaddrick says she never went to the police in 1978 because she blamed herself for inviting Clinton into her room and because she didn’t think anyone would believe her story.
If Juanita Broaddrick’s accusation stood alone, a sole black mark on a clean reputation, perhaps the nation could be forgiven for its apathy. But the multiple sexual harassment accusations against Clinton suggest that the former president engaged in a pattern of predatory sexual behavior for decades. In her lawsuit against Clinton, Paula Jones alleged that Clinton had a state trooper escort her to his hotel room, where, with little ado, he exposed himself to her and propositioned her for oral sex. Former White House aide Kathleen Willey told 60 Minutes that Clinton groped her and kissed her in the Oval Office without her consent.
Either you believe that three women each made completely false allegations against the same man, or you must acknowledge that Bill Clinton has forced his sexual attentions on women. It is a simple, stark choice.
And yet the feminist voices who so frequently rise up in support of rape and sexual harassment accusations, the women who assure us that “there are no perfect victims” and that false accusations are rare, are eerily quiet regarding Bill Clinton.
Nina Burleigh, the feminist author of Newsweek’s recent cover story on sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, has airily dismissed the charges against Clinton as the “insidious use of sexual harassment laws to bring down a president for his pro-female politics”—an impressively acrobatic rationalization.
Blogger Amanda Marcotte, who has compared “rape denialism” to Holocaust denialism, tweeted in 2012: “I say nice things about Bill Clinton. Wingnuts impotently squawk about how someone touched his dick once at me. That’s all they got.” If anyone so blithely characterized the accusations against Bill Cosby or Jameis Winston, Marcotte would no doubt lead the resultant Internet mob.
And of course, last September, Hillary Clinton herself—or, more likely, a twenty-something staffer with cartoonish eyeframes and a more cartoonish sense of justice—tweeted:
“To every survivor of sexual assault…You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We’re with you.” —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 14, 2015
Every survivor . . . except Juanita Broaddrick. It seems there are different rules for Bill Clinton, retired prom-king of 90s nostalgia, the man who made Democrats saxophone-cool.
Meanwhile, this April HBO released a thuddingly dull and stilted docodrama about Clarence Thomas’s 1991 confirmation hearing starring Scandal‘s Kerry Washington as heroine Anita Hill. Certainly no one is in danger of forgetting Ms. Hill’s name. Larry King has interviewed her as recently as 2009. Jezebel, Feministing, and Feministe have written about her sexual harassment allegations against Justice Thomas countless times.
But perhaps consistency of principle is a bridge too far in today’s hyper-partisan, hyperactive America. Carry on, happy hypocrites! The Clintons salute you for your selective blindness.