Right-wing media have bolstered Donald Trump’s campaign strategy of falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton has targeted women who have accused her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of sexual misconduct, in order to distract from numerous reports that Trump sexually assaulted several women. Multiple independent fact-checkers and media organizations have debunked the claims as unsubstantiated, calling them an “exaggeration too far.”
Trump Lies That Clinton Intimidated Her Husband’s Accusers To Distract From Reports Of Trump Sexual Assault
Bloomberg: Trump Is “Doubling Down On The Strategy” To Attack Hillary Clinton As “An Enabler Of Sexual Violence” To “Distract Attention Away From The 2005 Access Hollywood Tape.” Bloomberg’s Joshua Green reported that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his campaign are planning on “doubling down on the strategy” of attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as “an enabler of sexual violence.” The emphasis on this strategy, which he noted was was “spearheaded by campaign CEO Stephen Bannon,” comes amid Trump’s sliding poll numbers and numerous reports that he sexually assaulted several women. According to Green, the Trump campaign is attempting to “distract attention away from the 2005 Access Hollywood tape” in which Trump bragged about sexual assault by falsely claiming that Clinton intimidated women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct. From the October 12 article:
Donald Trump believes his ploy at the Oct. 9 presidential debate to invite three women who claim they were assaulted by former President Bill Clinton—Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones—has left Hillary Clinton “shaken” and helped unify Republican voters behind his embattled campaign.
So he’s doubling down on the strategy, which his advisers believe will make his opponent toxic and depress turnout among a key demographic group—young women—Clinton is counting on to win. A senior Trump adviser says the campaign will soon bring forward new accusers: “Women are coming to us who have been groped or sexually abused by Bill Clinton.”
The plan to intensify the focus on the Clintons and sexual violence is being spearheaded by campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, Bossie, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, multiple campaign officials confirm.
The purpose of Trump’s sudden, intense focus on sexual abuse is twofold: First, to distract attention away from the 2005 Access Hollywood tape recently obtained by the Washington Post that shows Trump making appallingly lewd remarks about women. Second is to depress enthusiasm for Clinton among a key voter bloc in her quest for the White House: millennial women.
Bannon has long believed that young, socially liberal voters unfamiliar with the Clinton scandals of the ’90s will become disillusioned if they learn more about them. ”There’s a whole generation of people who love the news but were 7 or 8 years old when this happened and have no earthly idea about the Clinton sex stuff,” Bannon told Bloomberg Businessweek last year. [Bloomberg, 10/12/16]
Right-Wing Media Echoed Trump’s Claim That Hillary Clinton “Attacked The Women Whom Her Husband Attacked”
Fox’s Sean Hannity: Hillary Clinton Attacked Bill Clinton’s Accusers. Fox host Sean Hannity accused “Hillary Clinton and her husband” of “public[ly] shaming” the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. From the October 11 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Look, nobody is going to defend what Donald Trump said. They shouldn't, but here's the thing. Last night we watched the debate, and those moderators needle and repeatedly pressed Donald Trump over his words from over a decade ago, while completely ignoring the actions of Hillary Clinton and her husband against women that accused the president, the former president, of rape, sexual harassment, and public shaming.
Now, here's the difference in all of this. Trump said offensive things and he apologized, said he was sorry and embarrassed, while the Clintons actually did them and never apologized. Now, Hillary Clinton conveniently pretended she was outraged over Donald Trump's comments, but what about the scores of extramarital affairs that Bill Clinton had before and during his time in the White House? And, of course, the lies both Hillary and Bill told about those affairs? Now, if Clinton, Hillary, is so disgusted by Trump's words, then why doesn't she feel the same way by her husband allegedly exposing himself to Paula Jones? In other words, he allegedly took his pants down. Was Hillary also outraged that her family had to pay $850,000 to settle that case with Paula Jones while Clinton supporters, remember? They were calling her a piece of trailer trash, drag a dollar through a trailer park, and, by the way, engaged in blaming the victims. Remember that?
Now, was Hillary offended when a woman by the name of Juanita Broaddrick accused her husband of actual rape? Now, did Hillary ever investigate those allegations? Did she believe that Ms. Broaddrick had a right to be believed or heard, as she now claims all victims of sexual assault have a right to?
And then what about Kathleen Willey? Now, she claimed in the Oval Office, Bill Clinton groped, grabbed, fondled, and kissed her, all against her will. So, why did Hillary Clinton call Monica Lewinsky a, quote, “narcissistic loony toon,” and ignore the lewd acts that Bill committed with Ms. Lewinsky in the White House? [Fox News, Hannity, 10/11/16]
Fox Contributor Robert Jeffress: Hillary Clinton “Attacked The Women Whom Her Husband Attacked.” Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress claimed that Clinton “attacked the women whom her husband attacked,” adding, “How can anybody say she is more moral or has more character than Donald Trump?” From the October 11 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
ROBERT JEFFRESS: And Bill, this is the issue that's getting lost in all of this. When people say they can't vote for Donald Trump out of character, are they really arguing that Hillary Clinton has a superior character? Here is a woman who destroyed 33,000 emails, she attacked the women whom her husband attacked, and supports the hideous practice of partial birth abortion. How can anybody say she is more moral or has more character than Donald Trump? [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 10/11/16]
Wash. Times’ Kelly Riddell: Clinton Was “Leading The Effort To Discredit Women Who Came Forward With Their Own Stories Of Harassment.” According to The Washington Times’ Kelly Riddell, Clinton was “leading the effort to discredit women who came forward with their own stories of harassment or assault by her husband,” adding that Clinton intended “to ‘destroy’ the story of one accuser.” From the January 14 article:
Running to be the first woman president, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has taken a stern stand on combating sexual harassment and assault — and has insisted that every accuser who comes forward has “the right to be believed.”
But Mrs. Clinton took a very different approach herself 25 years ago as the wife of then-Gov. Bill Clinton, leading the effort to discredit women who came forward with their own stories of harassment or assault by her husband.
Campaign narratives written by reporters detailed how she honchoed the campaign team that handled “bimbo eruptions,” digging up personal papers and official records that could be used to undercut the stories told by a series of women. One top aide later recounted Mrs. Clinton’s intent to “destroy” the story of one accuser, while former adviser Dick Morris said Mrs. Clinton engaged in “blackmail” to try to force women to recant their stories. [The Washington Times, 1/14/16]
Gateway Pundit: “Clinton Was Involved In Attacking Women Who Accused Her Husband, Then President Bill Clinton, Of Assault And Other Sexual Improprieties.” The Gateway Pundit’s Kristinn Taylor alleged that Clinton “was involved in attacking women who accused her husband, then President Bill Clinton, of assault and other sexual improprieties.” Taylor wrote that Clinton said “those accusing and investigating her husband ‘would have a lot to answer for’ and that their backgrounds would be investigated.” From the January 5 blog post:
A 1998 interview confirms allegations by leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton was involved in attacking women who accused her husband, then President Bill Clinton, of assault and other sexual improprieties.
In the interview, Hillary said those accusing and investigating her husband “would have a lot to answer for” and that their backgrounds would be investigated. [The Gateway Pundit, 1/5/16]
But Fact-Checkers Note That Clinton Did Not Attack Her Husband's Accusers As Right-Wing Media Describes
CNN: “Trump’s Blanket Charge That Clinton ‘Viciously’ Attacked These Women” Is “An Exaggeration Too Far.” In a comprehensive fact check of Trump’s claims that “Hillary Clinton had attacked women who had accused her husband of sexual assault,” CNN’s Steven A. Holmes wrote that the evidence demonstrates that “Trump’s blanket charge that Clinton ‘viciously’ attacked these women” is “an exaggeration too far.” From the October 12 article:
So it is clear that Hillary Clinton reacted in what could be seen as negative ways. According to some accounts, she at the very least went along with the hiring of a private investigator to look into the background of Gennifer Flowers. Some see her reaction as especially problematic coming from a person who promotes herself as a champion of women.
Still, Broaddrick's example of intimidation is open to interpretation, and is weakened by her answer to NBC that no one “near Bill Clinton” had tried to intimidate her. Willey is not able to link the incidents that occurred directly or indirectly to Hillary Clinton. The comments Clinton made about Lewinsky were spoken in private to a close confidante. And Paula Jones has not pointed to a specific attack.
All, in all, we think Trump's blanket charge that Clinton “viciously” attacked these women to be an exaggeration too far. [CNN.com, 10/12/16]
PolitiFact: Trump’s Claim Is “Mostly False” Because “In The Cases Of Alleged Abuse By Broaddrick, Willey And Jones, Hillary Clinton Was Largely Silent.” According to PolitiFact, “in the cases of alleged abuse by Broaddrick, Willey and Jones, Hillary Clinton was largely silent,” rating Trump’s claim that Clinton “viciously attacked those who charged abuse by Bill” as “Mostly False.” From the October 10 article:
Trump said that Hillary Clinton “viciously” attacked women who accused Bill Clinton of abuse.
Bill Clinton certainly has been accused of sexual assault and having affairs. The record shows Hillary Clinton played a role in defending her husband, and that the Clintons’ first presidential campaign deployed tough tactics to defend against stories of consensual sex.
But in the cases of alleged abuse by Broaddrick, Willey and Jones, Hillary Clinton was largely silent. The words she allegedly had with Broaddrick are subject to interpretation. Approving the release of Willey’s letters does qualify as an attack, but using a person’s words against them is a fairly tame tactic. And Clinton did not attack Jones directly.
Overall, we rate the claim Mostly False. [PolitiFact, 10/10/16]
Wash. Post: Clinton Referred To “Her Husband’s Political Opponents, Not Lewinsky Or Any Other Women” When She Said “Some Folks Are Going To Have A Lot To Answer For.” The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee debunked the claim that Clinton “savaged [the] dignity and shamed” the women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct when Clinton said in an January 27, 1998, interview that “‘Some folks are going to have a lot to answer for.’” Ye Hee Lee explained that full context of the interview shows Clinton “appears to reference her husband’s political opponents, not Lewinsky or any other woman.” From The Washington Post’s June 29 article:
One reading may be that Clinton was referring to the women. But in the context of the earlier questions leading up to that question, she appears to reference her husband’s political opponents, not Lewinsky or any other woman.
Later in the ad, the narrator says Hillary Clinton “savaged their dignity and shamed them,” and immediately shows a clip of Clinton saying, “Some folks are going to have a lot to answer for,” implying Clinton was referring to the women. But in the context of the full interview, that’s not exactly clear; Clinton appears to be blaming political opponents of her husband. [The Washington Post, 6/29/16]
AP: “There Is No Clear, Independent Evidence That Hillary Clinton ‘Viciously’ Attacked” Bill Clinton’s Accusers. According to the Associated Press’ fact check of the second presidential debate, “There is no clear, independent evidence that Hillary Clinton ‘viciously’ attacked women who alleged or confirmed sexual contact with her husband.” From The Associated Press’ October 10 article:
Trump on women linked to Bill Clinton sexually: “Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.”
The Facts: There is no clear, independent evidence that Hillary Clinton “viciously” attacked women who alleged or confirmed sexual contact with her husband. [Fortune.com, 10/10/16]