Clinton Bites

By Corry, John | The American Spectator, April 1999 | Go to article overview
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Clinton Bites


Corry, John, The American Spectator


So why didn't the media when Juanita Broaddrick spoke?

Words fail. Things fall apart. The president's apologists made the expected denials, but no one believed them, and even Geraldo Rivera had the grace to look embarrassed. Juanita Broaddrick had caused a problem. The New York Times, for one, tried to ignore it, although later it tried to make amends. It said in an editorial that Bill Clinton in his past confessions had presented himself as a "recreational philanderer," but now it seemed he might be "a serial masher or worse." The wording was close to whimsical-masher had a quaint ring to it-but you could excuse the Times for that. Some things are almost too painful to talk about, and the Times, and all the rest of the press, was having a problem. How do you deal with the idea of having a rapist in the White House? Or must you deal with it at all?

The rape story, of course, was not new. It had long been the subject of political and media gossip, and millions had read about it on the Internet. But what was new was Broaddrick telling the story herself, and allowing herself to be quoted-first in the Wall Street Joumal, and then in the Washington Post, and eventually, and most prominently, on NBC's "Dateline." At the same time it was apparent that the reporters she spoke to believed her. As Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Broaddrick was "a woman of accomplishment, prosperous, successful in her field, serious: a woman seeking no profit, no book, no lawsuit. A woman of a kind people like and warm to."

Besides, even in the absence of eyewitnesses, virtually every fact in Broaddrick's account of the rape that could be verified was verified, most thoroughly by NBC. Measured by any reasonable standard, Mrs. Broaddrick was telling the truth. In 1978, while running for governor, then-Attorney General Clinton had raped her at the Camelot Hotel in Little Rock. He also bit her so savagely on the lips and mouth that her face began to swell. "This is the part that always stays in my mind," Mrs. Broaddrick told Ms. Rabinowitz, "the way he put on his sunglasses. Then he looked at me and said, `You'd better put some ice on that.' And then he left."

It was all very ugly, and few in the press knew how to react, other than to talk about themselves and journalistic ethics. The Wall Street Journal story, for example, appeared on a Friday, and while the network news broadcasts ignored it, it was mentioned that night on "Washington Week in Review." Ken Bode, the moderator of the PBS program, bravely asked his panel of journalists what they thought of it.

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