The President of the United States very likely committed rape. Repeat: He very likely committed rape.
According to businesswoman Juanita Broaddrick, Bill Clinton raped her 21 years ago when he was the attorney general of Arkansas. Her story: She and Clinton met during his campaign visit to her nursing home facility in Van Buren. He invited her to visit him at his campaign headquarters in Little Rock. When she went to Little Rock for a conference the following week, she gave him a call. They made plans to meet in the coffee shop of the hotel. Later, Clinton called her from the hotel lobby, and asked if they could instead meet in her room so he could avoid the reporters in the coffee shop.
Once alone with her, he wasted little time. He held her down, bit on her lip, and raped her. After the rape was over, he walked to the door, calmly put his sunglasses on, and told her, “You better put some ice on that,” pointing to her lip which swelled to twice its normal size.
Broaddrick said she blamed herself immediately after the rape because she had allowed a man into her room. She also said she knew that no authority would believe that this man, the attorney general, a rising political star, had raped her. Like most rape victims, she stayed silent, and didn’t go to the police.
According to the polls, the majority of people of this country believe that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth; they believe that Bill Clinton raped her. Strangely, or not so strangely, this widely believed account of Clinton’s rape of a woman also has become an irrelevant story. Bill Clinton remains a popular president, secure in his post-impeachment politician as leader of this country. This country, pleased with a president who offered more police on the streets, three-strikes-you’re-out legislation, harsher and longer sentences for convicted (poor, Black) criminals, does not care that their president allegedly raped at least one woman–possibly many, many women. Most rapists do not rape just once.
Those who supposedly advocate for the forgotten, the scapegoated, the abused have shown almost no concern for the women who have spoken out–or for those women who have stayed silent. The Democrats have ardently protected Bill Clinton whose politics, in many ways, resemble what radical Republican politics were a decade ago. Though Clinton has betrayed almost all of the former tenets of the Democratic party over the past six years, Democrats have stood steadfastly by him through every accusation of harassment, assault, and now rape.
“Pro-human rights” leftists, who protested “sexual McCarthyism” so loudly during the impeachment hearings, are now calm and quiet, apparently at peace with the rape allegations. Establishment feminists offered lip service concern for the alleged rape victim, but have spent most of their time rallying around the accused, and rationalizing as to why they are not hypocrites. “Anti-oppression” civil rights activists–many of whom can muster up such compassion for abusive sports heroes–haven’t made a sound of protest against the President’s alleged rape.
Most importantly, the common man and woman on the street know Juanita Broaddrick’s story only vaguely, and prefer not to know. The “sex scandals” are half joke, half migraine headache that finally lifted, and the rape charges are nothing if not more “sex scandal.” Although people had insisted they didn’t care about the President’s sexual use of his intern because it had been “consentual” sex, the Broaddrick accusation makes clear that the question of “consent” is, at least at this point, neither here nor there. It is all “just sex.”
The Republicans, whom most of the country blames for creating the “sex scandals,” in fact only helped nullify the real scandal–exploitation and assault. They used the President’s exploitations and alleged assaults for their own reactionary political purposes, reducing women’s issues to mere political transactions. For months on end, the Republicans exhibited unsurpassed theatrical outrage over Clinton’s behavior toward Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Monica Lewinsky–behavior they, like the rest of the country, ultimately identified as “extra-marital sex.”
But by the time Broaddrick’s rape accusation was aired on television, the Republican outrage was gone, since the opportunity to use the accusation for political purposes had passed. The war is over. Who cares if Helen was abducted or fell in love? Who cares if she’s even alive? Women have been used by men as instruments of trade and war for a long, long time. Through the ridiculous impeachment attempt, which was technically based on nothing more than a lie about sex, Republicans did their part to erase whatever gains the women’s movement of previous decades had made in trying to get this country to take harassment and violence against women seriously.
Of all the guilty parties, the mainstream media were the most powerful in the creation of the non-scandal around the President’s alleged attacks on women. The media, with so much control over public knowledge and discourse, has demonstrated that it has the power to turn a pimple on Monica’s nose into the talk of the nation and, likewise, to downplay a highly credible accusation of rape against the President so that is seems no more serious than an unpaid traffic ticket. The media’s diminishment of the Broaddrick accusation was just as deliberate and purposeful as their magnification of the details surrounding Monica Lewinsky’s “consentual” sexual servicing of the President.
The mainstream media had known about Juanita Broaddrick’s story for a long time. In fact, Broaddrick gave her account directly to the media during the height of the impeachment trial. NBC Dateline recorded an interview with Broaddrick on January 20. However, NBC refused to air the interview until after Clinton was acquitted on February 12. They claimed that they held back the interview only to check, and then double check–for an entire month–Broaddrick’s statements. Anti-Clinton conservatives have pointed out that the media did hardly any fact checking when they gave coverage to pornographer Larry Flynt’s rumors of Republican politicians’ previous extra-marital affairs. But double standards aside, since when does NBC need an entire *month* to research–after an interview–a very contained story like Broaddrick’s?
The Wall Street Journal ended the mainstream media white-out on Feb. 19, safely after Clinton’s acquittal, printing Broaddrick’s story in an opinion piece–hardly the place for a “real” news story. Thereafter, the dam broke, but there was not much of a flood. The mainstream media successfully managed the story, giving it brief and strategically downplayed coverage.
The media minimized Broaddrick’s accusation by consistently referring to it as “sexual assault” instead of “rape”–thereby placing Broaddrick’s allegation in the same category as a brief grope, far easier to trivialize and dismiss. One exception to this reliance on euphemism appeared when the media covered feminists’ non-response to the allegations: “Feminists hit for silence on rape claim,” the Seattle Times headline announced (2/28/99). The article itself, from Gannett News Service, freely used the word “rape” rather than “sexual assault.” Clearly the media had no legal or editorial problem with using the word rape. Their only issue of concern was, whom did they want to turn the public against, and whom did they want to protect?
The articles that focused on Broaddrick’s accusation , on the other hand, relayed her story with evasive, misleading phrases, the word “rape” nowhere to be seen. For example, the Seattle Times article “‘Jane Doe No. 5’ takes the story public” (2/23/99) read, “She resisted his advances, she said, but soon he pulled her back onto the bed and forced her to have sex.” Why such an indirect, almost ornate, description of the attack? Why not say, “…and raped her?” Because a direct description, with the use of the word rape, would be alarming, and the media does not want to alarm the public about Clinton, just feminists. The phrase “forced her to have sex” is a confusing verbal sedative. Is a woman “having sex” when someone is raping her? The media used these inaccurate descriptions of Broaddrick’s account so they could more easily bury her story.
Why, after such stubbornly obsessive coverage of the so-called “sex scandals,” did the media want to bury this story? Because unlike the accusations of more minor incidents of sexual exploitation and assault, Broaddrick’s accusation could not easily be transformed into meaninglessness through over-exposure.
Broaddrick’s story, if it had been presented accurately and without the previous anesthesia of the misnamed “sex scandals,” had the potential to reveal, and therefore make vulnerable, the real harm of patriarchal political power and, in particular, the connections between male supremacist authority and the abuse of women. This potential impact of Broaddrick’s story could be avoided only if the media carefully muted it until after the impeachment trial, and then quickly abandoned it. And this is what they did. Broaddrick’s story was completely replaced after just a few days of coverage with a series of very presidential photo ops, and then front page breaking news announcing just how many people watched Lewinsky’s interview with Barbara Walters, and why Lewinsky’s hair looked funny, and whether people’s negative opinion of her had changed.
The media, knowing full well from the beginning that they would not pursue Broaddrick’s story in order to determine its truth, or to find out whether there might be other rape victims of Bill Clinton, or to examine what forms of recourse are or should be available to victims of violent politicians, immediately notified readers that the country was simply too burned out on “Monica” (and, they forgot to mention, “Paula” before that) to care about the accusation of rape.
In fact, the media’s entire goal behind the non-stop, vacuous coverage of the “sex scandals” was to create this public exhaustion, setting the stage for public trivialization and dismissal of the entire spectrum of sexual aggression and violence against women, including rape. The purpose behind the obsessive “sex scandal” coverage had nothing to do with “the public’s right to know” whether Bill actually ejaculated. And their point was not to sell advertising–the media knew full well that the public was revolted and turning away from the news. Nor was the media’s purpose to distract the public from “more important” stories with “entertaining” coverage of exploitation and abuse, as leftists unceasingly asserted (see sidebar “The Left and the Amazing Disappearing Woman”).
The purpose was to distract the public from the significance of the abuse itself, rendering it as meaningless as possible in public consciousness and discourse. The media’s goal was to turn these important issues–sexual exploitation and sexual aggression–and the greater issues beneath these issues–sexual assault and rape–into non-issues.
It worked, by and large. Even women who don’t believe that some women count while other women don’t, refuse at this point to view any accusation against Bill Clinton as consequential. “It’s like being under a waterfall of sewage,” one woman explained. “You don’t want to stand there and figure out if there is anything meaningful in it. You just want to get away.”
What is more harmful, enforced silence or incessant white noise? Thirty years ago, the media pretended that men’s violence against women hardly existed. There was only the violence committed by crazy men, or minority, disenfranchised men from whom white women needed to seek protection. Feminists exposed the reality of misogynist violence, including the fact that it is usually committed by men whom women trust. The violence now exposed, the mainstream media want to expose and expose and expose like pornographers, until the public hardly cares. They intend to anesthetize our psyches, obsessively focusing on the non-essential details, details surrounding the more minor incidents in particular, so that the significance of the entire spectrum of exploitation and violence against women can once again be erased.
The work of feminists which brought to the public’s consciousness the reality of misogynist violence is being co-opted and turned against us. This co-optation is succeeding, virtually unchallenged and unquestioned. We are seeing a collapse of integrity on the part of those who are suppose to resist–the feminists, leftists, civil rights advocates with media access–and a lethargy among those in the general population who might otherwise care. Women are being erased and, worst of all, many of us are agreeing to go along with the erasure.
In an eerie coincidence that perhaps was no coincidence at all, the Violence Against Women Act was ruled unconstitutional by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals just days after the Broaddrick story was aired and declared unimportant by the media, establishment feminists, and most everyone else. The act, which makes federal funding available to states to combat violence against women, and gives women the right to sue their attackers in federal court, has now been nullified in five eastern states fro being a “sweeping intrusion into individual states’ authority. The ruling will be appealed, but the appeal may not be successful. Will the public care if it isn’t? After the country has so thoroughly dismissed as unimportant the accusations against the President, including the accusation of rape, isn’t it a bit far fetched to expect the public to get worked up about the overturning of the act? Or other judicial wrong turns? Or individual acts of injustice against women?
The so-called “sex scandals,” finally used up, are over and done with. Now the questions we must face are: What is the fallout of the Presidential exploitation, assault, and rape non-scandal? Can the damage that has been done to women’s issues though this orchestrated obliteration be undone at this point? If so, how?