NY Times (Delicately) Explores Hillary's Attacks on Bill's Sexual Accusers on Front Page

October 3rd, 2016 1:07 PM

Monday’s long New York Times front-page story by Megan Twohey, “Her Husband Accused of Affairs, a Defiant Clinton Fought Back,” is all too soft on Hillary Clinton, with the beginning especially tracking closely with Hillary’s preferred image as a long suffering victim of husband Bill’s infidelity. The names of two of Clinton's assault accusers, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, were totally omitted, making Bill's sexual history look more benign. But there are damning bits worth fishing out of the long piece, including her support of siccing attack-dog detective Jack Palladino on her husband's accusers.

Twohey opens with a flashback to early 1992 during the presidential campaign that would eventually see Ark. Gov. Bill Clinton deny George H.W. Bush re-election.

Hillary Clinton was campaigning for her husband in January 1992 when she learned of the race’s newest flare-up: Gennifer Flowers had just released tapes of phone calls with Bill Clinton to back up her claim they had had an affair.

Other candidates had been driven out of races by accusations of infidelity. But now, at a cold, dark airfield in South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton was questioning campaign aides by phone and vowing to fight back on behalf of her husband.

“Who’s tracking down all the research on Gennifer?” she asked, according to a journalist traveling with her at the time.

The enduring image of Mrs. Clinton from that campaign was a “60 Minutes” interview in which she told the country she was not blindly supporting her husband out of wifely duty. “I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she said.

But stand by she did, holding any pain or doubts in check as the campaign battled to keep the Clintons’ political aspirations alive.

Last week, Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, criticized Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Clinton’s affairs and her response to them, and said he might talk more about the issue in the final weeks before the election.

Twohey tried to turn the tables on Trump.

That could be a treacherous strategy for Mr. Trump, given his own past infidelity and questionable treatment of women. Many voters, particularly women, might see Mrs. Clinton being blamed for her husband’s conduct.


Confronting a spouse’s unfaithfulness is painful under any circumstance. For Mrs. Clinton, it happened repeatedly and in the most public of ways, unfolding at the dawn of the 24/7 news cycle, and later in impeachment proceedings that convulsed the nation.

Outwardly, she remained stoic and defiant, defending her husband while a progression of women and well-funded conservative operatives accused Mr. Clinton of behavior unbecoming the leader of the free world.

But privately, she embraced the Clinton campaign’s aggressive strategy of counterattack: Women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Mr. Clinton would become targets of digging and discrediting -- tactics that women’s rights advocates frequently denounce.

Twohey missed opportunities to hit at stark liberal feminist hypocrisy -- as the same women who hailed Anita Hill and smeared Clarence Thomas went suddenly silent when the accused was pro-abortion Democrat Bill Clinton.

The campaign hired a private investigator with a bare-knuckles reputation who embarked on a mission, as he put it in a memo, to impugn Ms. Flowers’s “character and veracity until she is destroyed beyond all recognition.”

In a pattern that would later be repeated with other women, the investigator’s staff scoured Arkansas and beyond, collecting disparaging accounts from ex-boyfriends, employers and others who claimed to know Ms. Flowers, accounts that the campaign then disseminated to the news media.


Mrs. Clinton’s level of involvement in that effort, as described in interviews, internal campaign records and archives, is still the subject of debate. By some accounts, she gave the green light and was a motivating force; by others, her support was no more than tacit assent.

What is clear is that Mrs. Clinton was in a difficult spot. She was aware that her husband had cheated earlier in their marriage, but by her telling, she also believed him when he denied the accusations levied by Ms. Flowers and others.

If that’s true, then Hillary is not nearly as smart as the media seems to think she is.

Twohey described Hillary’s dissection of the story of Connie Hamzy, who claimed Bill Clinton propositioned her at a hotel in Little Rock, then moved on to Hillary’s thuggish treatment of Gennifer Flowers:

The Gennifer Flowers story landed like a bomb weeks before the New Hampshire primary.

Ms. Flowers, a lounge singer and Arkansas state employee at the time, sold Star magazine her story claiming an affair with Mr. Clinton that had lasted more than 10 years.

In a meeting with aides, the Clintons scripted a unified defense that they delivered in the interview on “60 Minutes.”

Twohey at least found room for Gail Sheehy, a supportive journalist who nonetheless added some details.

Glimpsing the news conference in South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton directed an aide to get Mr. Clinton on the phone, Gail Sheehy, a journalist traveling with her, recalled in a recent interview.


Back on a plane that night, Mrs. Clinton told Ms. Sheehy that if she were to question Ms. Flowers in front of a jury, “I would crucify her.”

In that interview, as well as in conversations around that time with a friend, Diane Blair, she explained her husband’s straying: It was rooted in his childhood, when he felt pressure to please two women -- a mother and a grandmother -- who battled over him; he was under great stress; she herself had not attended to his emotional needs.

Twohey buried some pretty big news -- that Hillary herself at the very least approved of the hiring of the detective Jack Palladino.

Weeks later, a small group of campaign aides, along with Mrs. Clinton, met at the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, and they made a pivotal decision: They would hire Jack Palladino, a private investigator known for tactics such as making surreptitious recordings and deploying attractive women to extract information.

An aide to the campaign, who declined to be publicly identified because the aide had not been authorized to speak for the Clintons, said Mrs. Clinton was among those who had discussed and approved the hiring, which shifted the campaign to a more aggressive posture.


Ms. Flowers denied the accusations about her, calling the suicide story, in particular, “false and cruel.”

Mr. Clinton later admitted, during a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, that he had sex with Ms. Flowers once.

Twohey included a microscopic dose of feminist chiding from Gloria Allred over the Palladino hiring (“let’s call it a minus”). Allred will (shades of the infamous Nina Burleigh) vote for Hillary anyway, because of abortion.

Gloria Allred, a well-known women’s rights lawyer who was a convention delegate for Mrs. Clinton, said that digging up a woman’s sexual past was a classic shaming strategy.


Told of Mrs. Clinton’s support for hiring Mr. Palladino, she said, “If Hillary signed off on a private investigator, let’s call it a minus.” But she added, “It wouldn’t change my support for her because there are so many pluses for her, like her stance on abortion.”