Sterility: What Did He Think, When Did He Think It

Perhaps the most puzzling element to Juanita Broaddrick’s story, as related on the editorial page of the Feb. 18 Wall Street Journal, is her claim that after Bill Clinton allegedly raped her in 1978, “he looked down at her and said not to worry, he was sterile–he had had mumps when he was a child.” (See “Proving Rape,” “More Proving Rape,” and “Even More Proving Rape.”) Subsequent events (e.g., the birth of Chelsea Clinton) suggest that if Clinton did say this, he was lying. That wouldn’t do much to prove or disprove Broaddrick’s rape accusation, but it’s mildly interesting to think about in the context of what we know about Clinton’s mendacity.

It may be, however, that (assuming he really said it) Clinton really did think in 1978 that he was sterile. In 1996 James B. Stewart, a former writer and editor on the Wall Street Journal’s news staff, published a book about the various Clinton scandals called Blood Sport . On pages 66, 80, and 81 of the hardcover edition, Stewart reports that in 1978 the Clintons were “trying to conceive. It seemed to be a subject of considerable anxiety for Hillary, who worried out loud to a few close friends that she might find it impossible to become pregnant because of a medical condition.” Although that sentence seems to imply it was Hillary who was presumed to have the “medical condition,” Stewart doesn’t really say. If it was Bill who was thought sterile, conceivably the couple wouldn’t have wanted to admit that even to close friends, because he was running for governor at the time in a campaign that emphasized his youth and vigor. According to Stewart’s account, the Clintons continued to fret about their ability to have children, and the following year even considered visiting a fertility doctor at the University of California at San Francisco. But then Hillary learned she was pregnant–famously, while they were in London, prompting Bill Clinton to sing, while strolling through Chelsea, Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning.”

So: Maybe Bill Clinton really did think he was sterile when he allegedly raped Juanita Broaddrick. That tells us Broaddrick had access to a fairly intimate detail about Bill Clinton’s sex life–which she might have gotten 1) after being raped by Bill Clinton; 2) before or after having consensual sex with Bill Clinton; or 3) while reading Blood Sport.

Chatterbox is ready to concede that there is a little more evidence supporting Broaddrick’s story than there was when the Journal editorial page broke it. In addition to the sterility business, there are, as previously noted here, three additional witnesses who say Broaddrick told them of the rape back in 1978. (This was reported by NBC, which the Journal editorial page, writing before the NBC interview aired, accused of expending too much effort trying to check out Broaddrick’s story.) There are also President Clinton’s suspiciously sullen, give-no-more-details-than-necessary denials; apparently the president’s finger-wagging days are over. (Of course, no one is likely to believe Clinton no matter what he says.) But Chatterbox remains pessimistic that he will ever be able to draw a truly responsible conclusion about whether Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick. Moreover, since Chatterbox has already concluded that Clinton, being morally unfit to remain in office, should resign, he doesn’t really know how his political world view would change–beyond, of course, concluding that Clinton was an even bigger creep than he thought–in the unlikely event Chatterbox could verify Broaddrick’s story. (It’s too late for Broaddrick herself to take any legal action.)

Meanwhile, Chatterbox is wondering when the news staff of the Wall Street Journal will write about the Broaddrick controversy. Although D.C. bureau chief Alan Murray was right not to break Juanita’s story, now that it’s “out there,” the news staff is in an awkward position. Clearly, the best way for the Journal’s news staff to write about Broaddrick would be the way the New York Times and the Washington Post have–partly sifting evidence concerning a widely publicized accusation, and partly examining the ethics and motives of the Journal’s editorial page for printing it in the first place. But while the Journal’s news staff remains free to report on Broaddrick, it is presumably not free to really report on (i.e., question the ethics and motives of) the Journal’s editorial page.

Timothy Noah