Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have both been accused of sexual misconduct – but Hillary says their cases are very different.
If you weren’t paying close attention to politics in the early Nineties, you’d be forgiven for thinking Donald Trump was the first modern US president to face multiple claims of sexual misconduct. Back in 2016, a dozen women came forward to allege that the then-presidential candidate had sexually harassed or assaulted them.
Their claims were compounded by accusations made by several former contestants in Trump’s Miss Universe beauty pageant franchise – including four women who had competed in Miss Teen USA – who said Trump had barged into their dressing rooms while they were changing. All of these charges came on top of three sexual assault accusations that had been filed in court against Trump before he even ran for office. For many people, the idea that a man accused of such things could be elected president was incomprehensible.
But Trump is not the first US president to govern under a cloud of sexual misconduct claims. Back in the Nineties, Bill Clinton faced several allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In 1994, a year after Clinton took office, a woman named Paula Jones said the president had sexually harassed her when he was governor of Arkansas.
Another woman, Kathleen Willey, alleged that Clinton groped her in the White House Oval Office in 1993. And perhaps most disturbingly, a former Clinton volunteer called Juanita Broaddrick came forward in 1999 to accuse Clinton of raping her in the Seventies, a claim he has always denied.
Since the #MeToo movement went global a year ago, the allegations made against Clinton – as well as his affair with Monica Lewinsky – have been seen by many in a different light, with some drawing comparisons between him and Trump as well as men such as Harvey Weinstein. (Trump himself has highlighted the claims against Clinton, notably when he brought Jones, Willey and Broaddrick onstage with him before a presidential debate in 2016.)
But in a new interview, Hillary Clinton has rejected the idea that there are similarities between the sexual misconduct allegations against her husband and Trump.
Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in Oxford, Clinton said the key difference between the two men was that the Republican party led a major investigation into the claims against her husband. Trump, she argued, has faced no such scrutiny.
“There’s a very significant difference, and that is the intense, long-lasting, partisan investigation that was conducted in the Nineties,” Clinton said.
“If the Republicans, starting with President Trump on down, want a comparison, they should welcome such an investigation themselves.”
Clinton is correct to say that the claims against her husband were investigated at length, although Juanita Broaddrick has reacted angrily to her statement, saying that her rape claim was “never litigated” in court. Kathleen Willey’s claims were probed by the US Office of the Independent Counsel, and Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton in 1994, a case that was eventually settled out of court for $850,000.
That lawsuit led to the uncovering of Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, as Jones’ lawyers sought to find evidence that the president had engaged in a pattern of sexually inappropriate behaviour with women. Jones, Broaddrick and Lewinsky’s claims were also scrutinised in a lengthy investigation by independent counsel Ken Starr, the results of which came to be known as the Starr Report.
Clinton subsequently lied about his relationship with Lewinsky under oath, and was ultimately impeached. The second season of the hit podcast Slow Burn explores the events leading up to Clinton’s impeachment, including the allegations of sexual misconduct.
The allegations against Trump, in contrast, have never been investigated by any political body in the US, with his staff and party insisting they believe the president’s denials of sexual misconduct. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be able to escape scrutiny forever.
One of the women who claims the president sexually assaulted her, Summer Zervos, is currently suing Trump for defamation after he called her a liar when she spoke out about the alleged attack in 2016. And a judge recently ruled that the president must respond to questions about the case by January 2019 – meaning that he may still face repercussions for his alleged behaviour.
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