Donald Trump arrived at the second presidential debate with an entourage of women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual violence. Ninety minutes before the first question of Sunday night’s town hall, Trump invited his Facebook followers to join him for the conclusion of his “debate prep.”
There, the mogul sat with four women — Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathy Shelton. The first three women had accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, respectively. The last had accused Hillary Clinton of providing legal representation to the man who raped her when she was 12 years old, even though Clinton knew that the man was guilty.
As cameras clicked and a reporter asked, “Mr. Trump, does your star power allow you to touch women without their consent?” — a view Trump espoused in a now-infamous bit of video tape — the Republican nominee ducked behind his human shield.
“These four very courageous women have asked to be here,” Trump said. “And it was an honor to help them.”
“I’m here to support Trump because he’s going to make America great again,” Jones began. “And I think everybody else should vote for him. And I think that they should all look at the fact that he is a good person … he’s not what other people have been saying.”
During an appearance on Fox News in 1998, Trump said that Jones was ugly inside and out (“the whole group — Paula Jones, Lewinsky — it’s just a really unattractive group … And I’m not just talking about physical, but I am also talking about physical”), and that Bill Clinton was actually “a victim himself.”
“I’m also here to support Trump,” Shelton said. “At 12 years old, Hillary put me through something that you would never put a 12-year-old through. And she says she’s for women and children — when she was asked last year on what happened, and she said she was supposed to defend, whether they did it or not, and now, she’s laughing on tape saying, she knew they did it.”
Hillary Clinton did represent Shelton’s rapist after a judge appointed her to do so. But she did not laugh publicly about the case’s outcome or say that she knew that the defendant was guilty, according to Snopes. The case ended in a plea bargain.
“Mr. Trump may have said some bad words,” said Broaddrick. “But Bill Clinton raped me. And Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there’s any comparison.”
Broaddrick’s allegations against Bill Clinton have neither been legally proven nor discredited. Her allegations against Hillary Clinton seem less credible, as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg notes:
Even after Broaddrick went public with the rape charges, she initially denied that anyone tried to silence her. “Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?” Dateline’s Lisa Myers asked her in 1999. “No,” Broaddrick replied. But a few months later, Broaddrick gave an interview to the Drudge Report in which she said that Hillary had indeed tried to shut her up, albeit very subtly. At the Clinton fundraiser Broaddrick attended, she told Drudge, Hillary “caught me and took my hand and said ‘I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill.’ ” Broaddrick interpreted this as a threat, but it sounds like the kind of thing a candidate’s wife at a political event would say to all his supporters. Even in her rendering of Hillary’s words, there is nothing outwardly sinister in them.
Willey kept her comments focused on Trump’s virtues, saying she believed he could help America “bring peace to this world.”
When she was finished, a reporter asked, “Why did you say you touch women without their consent?”
“Why don’t you ask Bill Clinton that?” Jones asked.
And thus, the Republican nominee’s “debate prep” came to an end.