NBC News journalists — including veteran reporter Andrea Mitchell — conducted interviews last week with Juanita Broaddrick, the Arkansas woman who says Bill Clinton raped her in 1978, but decided not to go forward with a story, claiming that there was not “anything new” to report.
“When Juanita Broaddrick went public last week, NBC News sent an associate producer to Arkansas to see if there was anything new in her story. We established there was not, and decided not to pursue it any further,” an NBC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Broaddrick, a 73-year-old retired nursing home administrator, spoke out on Twitter last Wednesday after 17 years of silence about the alleged rape.
“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,” Broaddrick wrote in a tweet that has been shared 13,000 times.
Broaddrick, who is one of numerous women who have accused Clinton of sexual violence or harassment over the years, had first talked publicly about the 1978 incident in a 1999 interview with NBC’s “Dateline.” She said during that interview that she met Clinton when she went to volunteer at the Little Rock headquarters of his gubernatorial campaign. She said she and Clinton later met for coffee at a hotel where she was staying but that the politician asked to carry on their discussion in her room. There, Broaddrick says Clinton raped her.
When Broaddrick resurfaced last week, NBC approached her, seemingly enthusiastic about airing her story. Andrea Mitchell, who hosts a daytime show on MSNBC, called Broaddrick. That was followed up with a call from a producer who later traveled to Van Buren, Ark. to negotiate an on-camera interview, BuzzFeed first reported.
Broaddrick told The Daily Caller that during her conversation with Mitchell, the veteran reporter mentioned wanting to get a camera crew to Arkansas to film an interview. But she also recorded their phone interview which Broaddrick says Mitchell “really wanted…for evening news.”
After that, the producer called Broaddrick saying that she would be flying to Arkansas and hoped to meet for coffee to discuss another interview.
Broaddrick initially declined the request and referred the producer to the 1999 “Dateline” segment.
But as emails obtained by TheDC show, the producer was persistent about meeting with Broaddrick and said she was “passionate” about her story.
“I do think there is something extremely important in your decision to tweet today in this particular political climate,” the producer said, adding later that she was part of “a new generation of NBC here who has the opportunity to meet someone who’s [sic] story is one I am passionate about!”
It is unclear why that passion did not translate into a news segment about Broaddrick’s allegations. NBC did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.
As many observers have pointed out, while Broaddrick’s story is not new in the sense that it has never been covered, it is information that is still unknown to a whole new generation of potential voters who were not around during the sex scandals of the Bill Clinton presidency. That awareness gap is especially important because younger Americans tend to take sexual assault accusations more seriously.
While many Clinton defenders have said that the actions of Bill Clinton should not reflect on his wife, the former secretary of state has spoken out in support of sexual assault victims in order to bolster support for her campaign.
“Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported,” Clinton tweeted in November.
“I hate to say it, but I think a lot of it has to do so recently with the Bill Cosby thing. I just think it’s a different environment. I think people are more ready to believe victims,” Broaddrick told Buzzfeed.
Broaddrick also said that when she talked to Mitchell, the journalist only seemed interested in an encounter Broaddrick had with Hillary Clinton several weeks after the alleged rape in 1978.
“She asked me about my meeting with Mrs. Clinton in 1978. That’s the only thing she was interested in,” Broaddrick told BuzzFeed. “She didn’t want to go into anything else. And when I told her, she seemed she was being very defensive of Mrs. Clinton.”
Broaddrick has claimed that she believes Clinton attempted to silence her at a small campaign fundraiser in Little Rock shortly after the alleged hotel assault.
“I just want you to know how much Bill and I appreciate what you do for him,” Broaddrick claims Hillary Clinton told her. Broaddrick says Clinton held onto her hand and repeated the comment. “Do you understand? Everything that you do,” Clinton said, according to Broaddrick, who has said she attended the function because she was in denial about the attack at the time.
In their conversation last week, Broaddrick says Mitchell asked her of her encounter with Hillary Clinton: “How do you know what she meant?”
“You had to have been there. I knew what Mrs. Clinton was trying to say,” Broaddrick says she told Mitchell.
“I really felt bad with how she was questioning me, she wanted to know what I thought and then right in the middle of it to question my sincerity,” Broaddrick told BuzzFeed. “That hurt my feelings.”
Broaddrick says that she is “really surprised” that NBC scrapped coverage of her story on the grounds that she has nothing new to offer.
“I never said I had anything new to offer. What I said on Twitter is what I said in 1999,” Broaddrick told Buzzfeed.
“After chasing me for a few days, then to say I had nothing new to offer. I was just shocked,” she added.
NBC’s apparent decision to spike its coverage of Broaddrick’s story is not a surprise given how the mainstream media has acted to protect Bill Clinton in the past from accusations of sexual impropriety.
In Jan. 1998, Newsweek infamously spiked the story of Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Matt Drudge’s website, the Drudge Report, sparked a revolution in conservative media when he reported news of the affair and of Newsweek’s actions on his website.
There were also rumblings that NBC sat on its 1999 “Dateline” interview with Broaddrick until after the Senate voted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Clinton. NBC’s Lisa Myers interviewed her on Jan. 20, 1999. Clinton was acquitted on Feb. 12, 1999. “Dateline” aired the Broaddrick piece on Feb. 24, 1999 only after the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post published articles with Broaddrick’s claims.
She told the Observer in a 1999 interview that the 35-day wait from the time she gave the “Dateline” interview until it aired was “agonizing.” She also said she believed that the White House had put pressure on NBC to spike the story.