Like many people, Juanita Broaddrick has been on Twitter since 2009, but couldn’t really figure out how to use it until recently. “I didn’t even know what ‘followers’ were until yesterday!” she told me on the phone this afternoon.
Earlier today, she had tweeted this:
I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73....it never goes away.— Juanita Broaddrick (@atensnut) January 6, 2016
In 1978, Bill Clinton was the attorney general of the state of Arkansas, and he was running for governor. Broaddrick, a nursing home executive, was working on his campaign in Crawford County. They met during a campaign stop in Van Buren in April, Broaddrick told me. Clinton invited her to say hello, should she ever be in Little Rock.
A few weeks later, Broaddrick and her friend, Norma Rogers, who worked at the nursing home Broaddrick owned, were in Little Rock for a conference. She called Clinton, inviting him out for coffee. Clinton agreed, but later demurred, saying that there would be too many reporters in a coffee shop. He suggested that they meet in her hotel room.
“I thought, ‘Okay! I’ll order coffee to the room,’” Broaddrick said. “Stupid me.” There, she alleged, he tried to kiss her, and then raped her.
The only time that Broaddrick ever interacted with Hillary Clinton, she said, was two weeks after the assault—“It’s hard for me to say the word, even though I put it in my tweet”—at a campaign event Broaddrick was obligated to attend.
“I was still in a state of, ‘My god, did this really happen to me?’ And also blaming myself. You’re talking about the ’70s—a woman allowed a man to come to her hotel room. Which I hadn’t planned at all, that his idea. He led me to believe that he wanted to talk about [a state reimbursement program for nursing homes], just to get to my room.”
“So I blamed myself. I hadn’t told anybody—two or three close friends,” she said. “I planned to leave, didn’t plan to see them in person. I was just going to do the job and leave. But I didn’t get out in time.”
“When they got there, she came directly to me and talked with me and said, ‘Bill and I are so thankful for all that you do for him.’ I was just going to say yes, and leave. She took hold of my hand. ‘Everything you do.’ And it sent chills up my spine. I thought, ‘My God, this woman knows. She knows everything.’”
In September, the Clinton campaign released a statement of unequivocal support for survivors of sexual assault.
Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported. https://t.co/mkD69RHeBL— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 23, 2015
“Hillary has led efforts to address violence against women her entire career,” the statement proclaimed. This, Broaddrick told me, is what inspired her rejuvenated interest in Twitter: “She’s just not the one. I can’t imagine what made her possibly do that. How can you say that?”
“This woman doesn’t deserve to be a candidate, much less president.” The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Years after the alleged assault, Broaddrick said, in 1991, at a nursing home convention, back in Little Rock, Bill Clinton apologized to her. “I’m a family man now, I have a child. I’m not that person anymore,” she said he told her.
“I told him to go to hell,” Broaddrick said. “The next day we heard he was running for president.” This, though, Broaddrick said, is when she finally began to think that maybe the assault wasn’t her fault.
“In a way he did me a favor,” she said.
Since the 1992 campaign, journalists had chased after Mrs. Broaddrick, a resistant quarry if ever there was one. With the advent of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal last year, the chase took on a new level of intensity. A Fox News crew pursued her down the highway, as she tried to outrace them at 90 miles an hour. Time magazine reporters trying to get to her pretended they were covering a local tennis benefit. The Broaddricks’ phone rang incessantly with requests for interviews, all of them refused until one weekend last January.
Mrs. Broaddrick finally agreed to see NBC’s Lisa Myers, who had already done a brief report on her in March and who had been calling her regularly for nearly a year. Within a day, Ms. Myers and a crew were on their way, even as an ABC producer was on the phone asking if Mrs. Broaddrick would come to New York to meet with Barbara Walters. Too late—nor was she about to vault from home, where she was surrounded by all that gave comfort and warmth, to go rushing to New York to talk about this with a stranger. It was hard enough with a reporter familiar to her.
“I just don’t think anyone would have believed me,” she told Myers.
These days, though, her feelings have changed. She can tweet about her experience, even if it’s still difficult to talk about, and she’s engaged with politics: She voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but has been frustrated by his administration’s inability to get things done. (She didn’t vote in 2012.) She likes Donald Trump, describing him as “boisterous,” but hasn’t decided who she’s voting for yet: “He seems to have some answers. Whether he really does or not, I don’t know at the moment.”
Asked about Bill Cosby, another powerful man who finds himself facing renewed coverage of past complaints, Broaddrick was vague. “I don’t know a lot about it,” she said, adding that she thought her case happened too long ago to press charges. “I don’t have any idea about Bill Clinton being brought to justice. It’s too old.”
Still, she doesn’t have to change the television channel whenever Clinton comes on. “When I saw him the other day, doing the campaign, alone, for Hillary, I thought, ‘That man looks beaten. He looks old. He looks spent. He looks like all of his past ghosts have caught up with him.’ And I felt better.”