• U.S.

New Woman, New Charges

4 minute read
Adam Cohen

Just when the air was clearing in Washington–when politicians were finally putting aside the presidential sex scandal and moving on to Social Security and tax cuts–another woman has come forward alleging sexual misconduct by Bill Clinton. Corroboration is scant, the White House denials are emphatic, but this tale has an unpleasant new twist: it is a charge of sexual assault.

In a report published last week, Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas nursing-home operator, clarified rumors that have been circulating for years. She contends that in 1978 Bill Clinton, who was then the Arkansas attorney general, forced himself on her. At the time, she was a 35-year-old volunteer in his campaign for Governor. She finally broke her silence, she told TIME, “because of all the misinformation” that was being spread about her, not because of Clinton’s just-concluded impeachment trial. “I could care less what happens to the man,” she says. “I just did this for myself and for my family.”

Reporters have been chasing her story at least since the 1992 presidential campaign, but Broaddrick has always refused to talk. In March 1998 she was referred to as Jane Doe No. 5 in Paula Jones’ sexual-harassment case, having earlier submitted an affidavit denying the “rumors and stories” surrounding herself and Clinton. (She now says she wanted to avoid the glare of publicity.) She recanted that affidavit in an interview last year with Ken Starr’s investigators, but would not describe details of the alleged attack. Starr made little mention of her in his report to Congress, saying her account was inconclusive. But during impeachment proceedings, her story was made available to Congress for private inspection. Last week the precise details of the allegation were published in the Wall Street Journal’s vociferously conservative opinion pages, and other media outlets quickly followed with their own stories.

Broaddrick’s accusations are sordid. On a business trip to Little Rock, she and Clinton planned to meet in a hotel coffee shop to talk. To avoid reporters, he suggested they talk in her room. After a brief conversation, she claims, he pulled her onto the bed and forced her to have sex, biting her upper lip and causing it to bruise and swell. Clinton then told her not to worry because, as a result of childhood mumps, he was sterile. The last thing Clinton said as he put on his sunglasses and walked out, according to Broaddrick, was that she should get some ice for her swollen mouth.

Broaddrick told TIME that she’s speaking out to set the record straight. She was particularly upset when the Jones camp made public a letter alleging that there was a “pay off” to keep her silent and when the Jones attorneys said on TV that she had been “bribed and intimidated.” The Star newspaper repeated these charges, Broaddrick says, and then “I see this crazy Lucianne Goldberg on TV saying that I was profusely bleeding and had to be rushed to the hospital.” That didn’t happen, she says, and there was never any hospital record. She never reported the alleged crime to police because, she says, given the circumstances she did not think she would be believed. “I felt very responsible for allowing him to come to my room,” she says.

After the incident, Broaddrick says, Clinton made several attempts to make amends. In 1984, when her nursing home was named best in the state, Governor Clinton scrawled “I admire you very much” on the official letter. In 1991 she was called out of a conference to find Clinton waiting for her and asking what he could do to make things right. She rebuffed him.

After turning away legions of reporters, Broaddrick decided to sit down for a taped interview with NBC’s Lisa Myers on Jan. 20. The network’s delay in airing it angered Broaddrick, so she turned to Journal editorial-board member Dorothy Rabinowitz to tell her story. NBC insists that it has not killed the story but is just trying to confirm Broaddrick’s charges to its satisfaction. “The story is not dead,” an NBC executive told TIME. “We’re working it hard.”

The White House last week issued a firm denial. “Any allegation that the President assaulted Mrs. Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false,” said David Kendall, Clinton’s personal lawyer. With impeachment over and the statute of limitations on the alleged crime long passed, the story seems unlikely to have much traction. Broaddrick herself says, “I’m just hoping this absolutely goes away in the next week.” A weary nation would probably agree.

–Reported by Jay Branegan, Karen Tumulty and Michael Weisskopf/Washington

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com