Is Juanita Broaddrick Telling the Truth?

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March 3 1999 3:17 PM

Is Juanita Broaddrick Telling the Truth?

Juanita Broaddrick says Bill Clinton raped her 21 years ago in an Arkansas hotel room. Clinton denies the charge. Is Broaddrick telling the truth? No on knows for sure, but here's the evidence uncovered so far, accompanied by dueling he's-guilty/he's-innocent interpretations:

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She Changed Her Story:

In 1997, Broaddrick filed an affadavit with Paula Jones' lawyers saying Clinton did not assault her. In 1998, Broaddrick told Kenneth Starr's FBI investigators that she was raped. Eventually, Broaddrick described the rape for several major news organizations.

Clinton Is Innocent: Broaddrick is either a liar or has an unreliable memory.

Clinton Is Guilty: Broaddrick's initial denials indicate only that she shunned publicity. That's why she never reported the rape; rebuffed advances from Clinton's political enemies who, in 1992, urged her to go public; and lied to Paula Jones' lawyers. She eventually told the FBI the truth in 1998 only because her son--a lawyer--advised her against lying to federal investigators. (At the time, it was reasonable to suspect she'd be hauled before a grand jury.) She granted media interviews only after her name was released by Paula Jones' lawyers, and after tabloids printed wildly untrue stories about her. Given her aversion to politics and celebrity, Broaddrick would seem to have little or nothing to gain by falsely accusing Clinton of rape. Clinton, on the other hand, has plenty to gain from falsely denying her charges.

She Told Friends:

Five people say Broaddrick told them about the rape immediately after it occurred. A friend and co-worker named Norma Kelsey says that, 21 years ago, she found a dazed Broaddrick with bloodied lip and torn pantyhose in their shared hotel room and Broaddrick explained that Clinton had just raped her. (Clinton is supposed to have bitten her on the lip just before raping her.) Her current husband--then her lover--says Broaddrick told him about the rape within a few days of the event. Broaddrick was, at the time, married to another man, whom she didn't tell about the assault. And three of Broaddrick's friends--one of whom is Kelsey's sister--say she told them about the rape shortly after it supposedly occurred.

Clinton Is Innocent: The friends' testimony isn't trustworthy. Kelsey and her sister have a grudge against Clinton because, as governor, he commuted the life sentence of the man who murdered their father. Broaddrick's current husband might lie on her behalf. Moreover, even if the friends are telling the truth, Broaddrick might have been lying 21 years ago. There is limited evidence that her first husband was abusive, so maybe she cooked up the story to explain a bloody lip he had given her. And if she was raped, why didn't she tell her own husband?

Clinton Is Guilty: If five friends say her story hasn't changed over 21 years, we can conclude that either that she's an unusually consistent liar or that her memory is reliable.

A Pattern of Behaviour?

Paula Jones accused Clinton of exposing himself to her in a hotel room. Kathleen Willey accused him of groping her in the Oval Office. And, by his own admission, Clinton has been dishonest with the American people before when it comes to sex.

Clinton Is Innocent: Clinton has admitted to shading the truth and to a "deeply wrong"--whatever that means--consensual affair with a young-enough-to-be-his-daughter intern. But that's a far cry from committing and lying about a violent felony. No other credible witness has ever accused him of rape.

Clinton Is Guilty: Once a liar always a liar. Groping Kathleen Willey demonstrates deep-seated misogyny. Broaddrick's story has a "wretched familiarity" (Michael Kelly, Washington Post).

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