November 27, 2018
If Bill Clinton — and, by extension, Hillary — get their true #MeToo reckoning, but the mainstream media largely ignores it, has it actually happened?
Last week, the A&E channel premiered a stunning six-part documentary produced by the estimable Alex Gibney and directed by Emmy winner Blair Foster. “The Clinton Affair” opens as Clinton’s own presidency did: hailed by women, the left and the media as the first ostensible feminist president, one who appointed Janet Reno as the nation’s first female attorney general, who made Ruth Bader Ginsburg the second woman in history to sit on the Supreme Court, and who made clear that his wife, for better or worse, would not be relegated to ceremonial duties but would lead the charge for health care reform.
Then came Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey.
Before going any further, let’s acknowledge the obvious: Our current president has been accused of sexual harassment by 22 women. He has cheated on his wives. He has been caught saying vile and indefensible things, and he too should be held to account. Yet the mainstream media’s excoriation of Donald Trump for these wrongdoings — some alleged, others acknowledged — exposes their hypocrisy when it comes to the Clintons: one standard for the guy whose politics are roundly despised, another for the liberal hero.
The Clintons have long been a drain on the Democrats, but somehow the party hasn’t the guts to deliver the message directly. Rather than hoping Bill and Hillary quietly go away — as if the couple hasn’t already telegraphed intentions to the contrary — the Dems need to have a true reckoning with the Clintons.
It begins with the women.
On May 6, 1994, Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton, claiming that when Bill was governor of Arkansas, state troopers brought her to his hotel room under false pretenses. As she recounts in the documentary, once she was left alone with him, Clinton put his hand up her leg, dropped his pants and began fondling himself while asking her to “kiss it.”
All these years later, Jones cries while reliving this, as well as what the media did to her — an unsophisticated, untelegenic woman with a thick Southern accent, big hair and heavy makeup. Her story didn’t matter; her physical presentation did, and it was too easy for Clinton loyalists to dismiss her claims against the most powerful man in the world. Jay Leno depicted Jones as a troll-like hick in a “Tonight Show” sketch to great applause; post-#MeToo, that skit would have bombed if it ever made it to air. Nor today would a female CNN correspondent have the temerity to ask Jones this question: “Don’t you think this has created a huge embarrassment for the president of the United States?”
In other words: Go away, you troublesome gnat.
Jones was taken aback but, to her credit, would not be shamed. “He’s the one who did it to me,” Jones said. “Just because I’m coming forward like a woman should do when they’re done wrong — just because it’s the president, I guess I shouldn’t have done it?”
In November 1998, Clinton settled with Jones for $850,000. Part of the deal? Clinton wouldn’t have to apologize.
Eight months prior, a former White House volunteer aide named Kathleen Willey, a longtime friend of the Clintons, went on “60 Minutes” with her own claims of sexual assault. Having gone to the Oval Office to ask the president for help, Willey said he forced a kiss and exposed his penis. She, too, is in tears as she tells her story again for the documentary, and says the attendant media excoriation was another trauma. She and Jones, Willey says, were the first women to publicly hold a president to account for alleged sexual assault, and “we got absolutely hammered for it. Ruined. … It never leaves you.”
Monica Lewinsky, of course, is this narrative’s most famous character, and she comes across as sharp and self-aware. She knows she was the left’s fig leaf, the woman Clinton defenders could point to and say: This was an affair, yes, but it was consensual. What’s the big deal?
It was a narrative that even Lewinsky, 22 years old and still “in love” with Clinton, bought into, even as he left her — as his own lawyer admits in the doc — with “no protection.” Lewinsky tearfully admits she considered suicide, that she was overcome with terror and guilt, that she only later realized Clinton called her in for a Christmas tryst — their last, unbeknownst to her at the time — to make sure she’d keep their secret.
The release of the Starr Report coincided with the birth of the internet, and soon the whole world knew the granular details of what was really a cheap affair, the president of the United States using a worshipful 22-year-old for sex and tossing her aside. He denied her claims that they ever had sex as the media took up his cause.
Lewinsky became a national punchline, her last name slang for oral sex. All the great white male liberals of late night and elsewhere crucified her while depicting a problematic man with a track record as the real victim — even as his own White House smeared Lewinsky as an unstable slut and a stalker. And Hillary, according to many accounts, was an active participant in what came to be known internally as the “nuts-and-sluts” defense.
“Hillary Clinton’s been calling me a bimbo for 19 years,” Willey told the Washington Examiner in 2016, “as well as Paula and Juanita [Broaddrick] and [Bill’s former mistress] Gennifer [Flowers].”
Hillary has never acknowledged any of her husband’s misdeeds — aside from the Flowers affair, which she defended in order to preserve her husband’s presidential bid in 1992. She reportedly told a friend that Lewinsky was a “narcissistic looney-toon.” As the thinking in some quarters still goes, if the wronged wife ostensibly has no problem with her husband’s womanizing — or worse — why should we? Is it any wonder the media played along?
“I think Monica Lewinsky is the one who should apologize to America,” Bill Maher has said. Conan O’Brien joked on his show that Lewinsky would happily “give oral sex” instead of autographs. Michael Moore proclaimed that Lewinsky’s intent at the White House was always to get on her knees — what happened was solely her fault, not that of a sitting president who was decades her senior. As recently as 2005, Jon Stewart, who can do or say no wrong among his cohort, said this on “The Daily Show”: “Hurricane Katrina is George Bush’s Monica Lewinsky. The only difference … tens of thousands of people weren’t stranded in Monica Lewinsky’s vagina.”
“Devastating humiliation,” Lewinsky says of this time. “A whole other layer of just being burned.”
The documentary’s final episode centers on Broaddrick, who for decades has stuck by her accusation that in 1978, after being lured to Bill Clinton’s hotel room under false pretenses — notice a pattern? — Clinton, then attorney general of Arkansas, raped her. The details of Broaddrick’s account have never changed, the most damning that Clinton bit her on the lip so violently that she bled. Lip-biting is often a signature attack in sexual assault and rape: It restrains the victim and implies that if she doesn’t go along, her attacker will bite it clean off her face.
“He forces me down on the bed,” Broaddrick says in the documentary. Forty years later, she cries as she relives this. “I told him, ‘Please don’t … please stop.’ [But] he would press down on my right shoulder and bite me on my lip.”
Broaddrick went public in February 1999; it took NBC reporter Lisa Myers, who also speaks here, one year to convince Broaddrick to go on the record. And wouldn’t you know: When Myers came back with her scoop, NBC execs refused to air it.
“A lot of people wanted to kill the interview without even looking at it,” Myers says. It was only after the late Tim Russert fought hard for the piece to air, himself calling Broaddrick extremely credible, that the network caved. Even then, the interview was presented as an old and unprovable allegation.
And all these years on, incredibly, Clinton still has his defenders, among them well-educated liberal women who, one suspects, really do know better. Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, appears in the documentary mainly to discredit these claims and these women.
“It’s hard to evaluate the truth of their stories,” Abramson says, “because the stories over time have become so polluted by politics.”
Really? Have they, really?
Broaddrick, a retired nurse, says she never planned to speak publicly again until one fateful day in November 2015, when presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took to Twitter.
“Every survivor of sexual assault,” Clinton wrote, “deserves to be heard, believed and supported.”
Broaddrick asked her grandson how to set up an account, and on Jan. 6, 2016, took to Twitter herself.
“I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Arkansas Attorney General, raped me and Hillary tried to silence me,” she wrote. “I am now 73 … it never goes away.”
After Broaddrick came forward, veteran White House correspondent Sam Donaldson put the question to Clinton plainly: If he hadn’t raped Broaddrick, “Can you not simply deny it, sir?”
Clinton refused, punting the question to his lawyer. Why wouldn’t someone accused of such a vicious crime proclaim their innocence? Pain and outrage, one would think, would be the natural response.
If the Democrats are smart, this documentary will be the end of the Clinton machine. It will be the tombstone for Hillary’s 2020 hopes. Hopefully, it will move much of the mainstream media to reassess what stories are told, how and by whom. It will provoke the most uncomfortable acknowledgment that the man the party has loved and deified for his public policies is, in fact, a man with no morals, no character and, most damningly, never to be believed.
Once Monica Lewinsky had been dispatched, once Clinton had survived the scandal and impeachment, he was asked the moral of his story. What lesson had he taken away?
“Every person must bear the consequences of his or her conduct,” Clinton said, having theatrically paused, ever pensive and thoughtful. “And when you make a mistake, you pay for it.”
He didn’t then. Maybe now.