NYT's Fiercely Feminist Writer Admits ‘I Believe Juanita' Broaddrick, Still Fears ‘Right-Wing Disinformation’

November 14th, 2017 4:55 PM

In an age where sexual harassment is dominating the spotlight, has Bill Clinton’s media Day of Reckoning finally arrived?

Michelle Goldberg’s op-ed in Tuesday’ New York Times, “I Believe Juanita,” marks another crack in the ice of the liberal media’s cover-up of Clinton’s shameful, and shamefully dismissed, sex-harassment escapades.

“Juanita” is Juanita Broaddrick, who in 1999 raised a credible allegation that she was raped by Bill Clinton in 1978, when he was attorney general of Arkansas. Broaddrick was demonized by Democrats and ignored by the media. (Could there be a play on words going on here with “I Believe Anita,” as in Anita Hill, the accuser of Justice Clarence Thomas? Hill is not mentioned in Goldberg’s op-ed.)

It's a fairly big step from a fiercely pro-abortion Democratic defender like Goldberg. But she still can’t stop blaming the “right-wing,” as shown in the text box, “Coming to terms with Bill Clinton and right-wing disinformation.”

Goldberg suggested why the ice around Bill Clinton's reputation may be getting thinner.

On Friday evening the MSNBC host Chris Hayes sent out a tweet that electrified online conservatives: “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is, it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”...

Still, she hedged.

Yet despite the right’s evident bad faith, I agree with Hayes. In this #MeToo moment, when we’re reassessing decades of male misbehavior and turning open secrets into exposes, we should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her. But revisiting the Clinton scandals in light of today’s politics is complicated as well as painful. Democrats are guilty of apologizing for Clinton when they shouldn’t have. At the same time, looking back at the smear campaign against the Clintons shows we can’t treat the feminist injunction to “believe women” as absolute.

Writing at Crooked.com, Brian Beutler warns that in future elections, right-wing propaganda will exploit the progressive commitment to always taking sexual abuse charges seriously....

Since when has the Democratic left taken all sexual abuse charges (Sen. Kennedy, President Clinton) seriously?

The Clinton years, in which epistemological warfare emerged as a key part of the Republican political arsenal, show us why we should be wary of allegations that bubble up from the right-wing press....

In this environment, it would have been absurd to take accusations of assault and harassment made against Clinton at face value. On Monday, Caitlin Flanagan, perhaps taking up Hayes’s challenge, urged liberals to remember some of what Clinton is said to have done....

Similarly, there are reasons to be at least unsure about Paula Jones’s claim that Clinton exposed himself to her and demanded oral sex....

After Goldberg was through dismissing accusers of the former Democratic president, she admitted that Broaddrick has a strong case.

Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It’s true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones’s lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn’t want to go public but couldn’t lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.

What to do with that belief? Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton....Nevertheless, one of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions.

Goldberg's sympathetic view of Hillary requires ignoring the fact that she at best stood passively by as Clinton’s accusers were smeared, and may have even helped strategize the attacks.

And now they’re being trotted out again. It’s fair to conclude that because of Broaddrick’s allegations, Bill Clinton no longer has a place in decent society....

Other than speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2016...and 2020 as well?

The Flanagan article in the Atlantic cited by Goldberg is indeed bracing. At one point it was toughly titled “Reckoning With Bill Clinton’s Sex Crimes.” The subhead: “Feminists saved the 42nd president of the United States in the 1990s. They were on the wrong side of history; is it finally time to make things right?” Flanagan referenced a notorious op-ed by feminist Gloria Steinem during the Paula Jones sexual harassment controversy from the March 1998 New York Times (naturally), excusing Clinton’s behavior. Flanagan said Steinem’s editorial “must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.”

The Times editorial page has made some stray hints about Bill Clinton’s dark past recently without deigning to mention Broaddrick’s name, and under the less-than-fair headline “Republicans Finally Believe Women.”