Paula Jones vs. Anita Hill

The conventional wisdom debunked.
Oct. 31 1996 3:30 AM

Paula Jones vs. Anita Hill

Isn't what Clinton almost surely did worse than what Clarence Thomas allegedly did?

When William Jefferson Clinton vs. Paula Corbin Jones comes before the U.S. Supreme Court--as expected--in January, all eyes will be on Justice Clarence Thomas. Will a flicker of emotion crease his usually impassive glare as he ponders a she-said, he-said fact pattern so hauntingly reminiscent of his own ordeal five years ago?

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Millions of Clinton supporters still disdain Clarence Thomas as a sexual harasser. But a comparison of the Paula Jones and Anita Hill episodes suggests that the evidence against the president is far stronger than the media has let on--and far stronger than the evidence against Thomas.

Jones' evidence, which I detail in a 15,000-word article in the current issue of the American Lawyer, includes clear proof, scattered through the public record, that then-governor Clinton's state trooper-bodyguard interrupted the then-24-year-old state employee on the job on May 8, 1991, and took her to meet Clinton--the boss of Jones' boss--alone in an upstairs suite in a Little Rock hotel, for the apparent purpose of sexual dalliance.

The evidence also includes strongly corroborative statements made to me by two of Jones' friends, complete with tellingly detailed, seamy specifics remarkably consistent with Jones' allegations.

Pamela Blackard and Debra Ballentine first told their stories in February 1994 in exclusive interviews with reporter Michael Isikoff, then of the Washington Post. But to Isikoff's chagrin, the Post printed only sketchy fragments of their accounts, 11 weeks later.

Other evidence, of course, warrants skepticism about Jones' account, including the claim by Jones' trooper escort that she happily volunteered to be Clinton's "girlfriend" just after leaving his hotel room. Yet a careful review of the evidence makes clear that there are only three logically possible scenarios: that Jones lied in a most convincing manner, and in stunning, Technicolor detail, to both Blackard and Ballentine, on May 8, 1991, and to her sisters soon thereafter; that all four later conspired with Jones to concoct a monstrous lie; or that Jones' allegations are substantially true. And after conducting interviews and studying other evidence, I'm all but convinced that--even if Jones embellished somewhat--whatever Clinton did was worse than anything Thomas was even accused of doing.

Meanwhile, not one of the feminist groups that clamored first for a Senate hearing for Anita Hill, and then for Clarence Thomas' head, has lifted a finger on behalf of Paula Jones. What the Hill-Thomas and Jones-Clinton episodes have in common is that each prompted a rush to judgment by people on both sides of the ideological divide. And most striking, in my view, is the hypocrisy (or ignorance) and class bias of feminists and liberals--who proclaimed during the Hill-Thomas uproar that "women don't make these things up," and that "you just don't get it" if you presumed Thomas innocent until proven guilty--only to spurn Jones' allegations of far more serious (indeed, criminal) conduct as unworthy of belief and legally frivolous.

She Said: The Proposition

The May 8, 1991, encounter began in the conference-room area of Little Rock's Excelsior Hotel, where a "Governor's Quality Management Conference" was in progress at which Clinton made a speech. Jones claims, and Blackard confirms, that both noticed Clinton staring intently at Jones while fielding questions from television reporters. A few minutes later, according to Jones, trooper Danny Lee Ferguson--who had previously introduced himself as a member of the governor's security detail--approached Jones and said, "The governor said you make his knees knock."

According to Jones' complaint, Ferguson later returned to the registration desk, handed Jones a piece of paper with a suite number on it, and said the governor would like to meet with her there. According to the complaint, "Ferguson stated during the conversation: 'It's OK, we do this all the time for the governor.' " Blackard told me, as she told Isikoff, she generally recalls such a conversation. Ferguson's carefully lawyered answer to Jones' complaint, in which she seeks damages from him as well as Clinton, confirms that he then escorted Jones to the upstairs floor and pointed out Clinton's suite.

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