By John W. Whitehead
December 19, 2007
“I was a politically active and aware Democrat for most of my life, but politics is only a small part of who I am. An ordinary American woman, I was a housewife and a soccer mom. But ten years ago, as impeachment loomed for the president of the United States, I was suddenly involved in the biggest political crisis since Watergate. This frenzy intertwined both national politics and sexual behavior. What could be more scandalous?”—Kathleen Willey
I first met Bill Clinton in the early 1970s when I was a law student at the University of Arkansas and he was a law professor there. He was also on the verge of running for Congress. I worked part-time for a small newspaper and sought Clinton out for an interview (which became the first political interview he ever did). During the course of the interview, I got to know him and liked him. At that time, Clinton was idealistic, as I was, and wanted to see some real change in the world. Little did I suspect that our paths would cross again, years later, with him in the White House and me as the head of a Virginia-based civil liberties organization.
When I first decided to help Paula Jones in her sexual harassment and discrimination suit against Clinton, I had no idea that the Jones case would become a precedent-setting case that would receive widespread coverage in the national and international media. Never before had a president’s sexual misconduct come under such close scrutiny. Suddenly, women were speaking out about their own encounters with Clinton. Some of them, such as Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer, also accused him of impropriety and harassment.
Clinton’s videotaped deposition during the discovery phase of the case constituted the first time that a sitting president was questioned as a defendant in a court case. And Clinton’s false testimony about his extramarital relations with Monica Lewinsky during that deposition resulted in only the second presidential impeachment trial in American history.
Critics on both the right and the left attacked me. From the moment I took on that case, I was questioned, called a liar, accused of trying to “get” the president and painted as a political right-winger with an agenda no less ambitious than bringing down the president of the United States. To the contrary, The Rutherford Institute’s involvement in the Paula Jones case stemmed from the fundamental principle that no person—not even the president—is above the law. To me, the Jones case was about principle, not politics. And it raised many important issues, such as the importance of protecting women from workplace harassment, the role of the rule of law in our highest offices and the need for leaders with strong moral character and discernment.
In the end, Bill Clinton agreed to settle the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against him, Paula Jones went back to leading a relatively private life, Monica Lewinsky signed on with FOX to host some sort of dating reality show called “Mr. Personality,” I continued my work as a human rights attorney, fighting to defend constitutional freedoms whenever they are endangered, and the media moved on to the next national scandal. Kathleen Willey, however, has not yet put that episode behind her.
Kathleen and her husband Ed Willey, a successful real estate lawyer, had been working together in support of Democratic campaigns throughout Virginia when she first met Bill Clinton at a major fundraiser in 1989. The Willeys helped with fundraising for Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, and once he was elected, Kathleen obtained a volunteer position at the White House.
In her new book, Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Willey looks back on her years as a Clinton supporter and fundraiser, describes in vivid detail her allegations of being subjected to unwanted sexual advances in the Oval Office and speaks candidly about the fallout that arose after she went public with her charges of sexual harassment. Willey recently took time to discuss Target with me.
John Whitehead: Can you tell the readers what President Clinton did that was so offensive to you?
Kathleen Willey: I went to see him for help. He was a good friend of ours, or I thought he was. My family was in the middle of a very, very severe financial crisis. I had been a volunteer at the White House and had worked real hard to get Bill Clinton elected. And I went to see him to ask for his help. I told him I couldn’t afford to volunteer anymore and asked if he would be able to help me find a paying job. As I was leaving, he sexually assaulted me. I go into detail about it in the book—his hands all over me and the things he said to me that just were not proper.
JW: Don’t you claim that Clinton tried to place your hands on his crotch?
KW: Yes, he did. He did.
JW: You say you felt violated. Negative things were said about you in the press. Then, after the incident in the Oval Office, Clinton released letters you had written which seemed to say that not much happened. What do you say to people who say that you’ve written this book out of revenge and to make money?
KW: First of all, I am not making a lot of money. Second, I am not writing it out of revenge. I was given an opportunity to write this book. It was cathartic for me to write it. I went through a living hell with the Clintons. I was subjected to a brutal smear campaign, terror tactics and people prowling around my home. I was threatened two days before the Paula Jones deposition, which I was subpoenaed to go to court on. I started writing the book about a year and half ago. It wasn’t because I thought Hillary Clinton was going to run for President—although everybody was surmising that she was. That was not the reason I wrote this book. But now that it is out and she is running for president, I feel like Americans should be enlightened about what the Clintons are capable of doing to people.
JW: What are the Clintons capable of doing?
KW: For well over 30 years, Hillary has had on her payroll private investigators who go out and find women who have had the misfortune of crossing paths with her husband and doing anything and everything that she can to keep them quiet. I have talked to women, whose names you will never hear, who have called me to tell me of similar things that Bill Clinton did to them and how they suffered afterwards. I don’t think this is what our forefathers had in mind for us. I mean, we have secret police out after women who have crossed paths with Bill Clinton. Hillary has enabled his behavior for well over 30 years. Rather than try to get him any kind of help or treatment—which she is very capable of getting—Hillary attacks the women. At the same time, she portrays herself as a feminist, a women’s advocate and a champion of women’s rights. I am here to tell you that is a lie.
JW: You claim in your book that Bill Clinton, if allowed access to the White House again, would pose a threat as a sexual predator. Could you elaborate on that?
KW: I know Clinton would. His behavior hasn’t changed, and he hasn’t sought help.
JW: People are going to be surprised by this claim because, for example, we see Bill Clinton on television with George H. W. Bush trying to raise money for victims of hurricanes and poverty. Clinton also has a new book out called Giving. Thus, his image is totally the opposite of what you say. Many people will be skeptical and say, “Look at all the good things Bill Clinton is doing.”
KW: It is all for show. It is all for image.
JW: How do you think Bill Clinton really feels about women? Is there any chance that he is a feminist?
JW: Let me finish. Couldn’t Clinton be a feminist with an addiction? Or is he just fundamentally a male chauvinist?
KW: He is worse than a male chauvinist. I think he disdains women. He thinks women are here to please him. We are here at his disposal for whatever he wants to do to us.
JW: During the debacle with the Paula Jones case and the Monica Lewinsky affair, there were many who said that Hillary was doing an admirable thing by standing by her man. However, you allege in your book that what she is doing is rationalizing and enabling Bill’s abuse of women. If that’s true, why would she do that? Was it because of political motivations? Is she escaping reality? You were in the White House. You must have some idea.
KW: She has always had political ambitions. I had to laugh at her attacking Barack Obama for being ambitious because he wrote a paper in kindergarten saying he wanted to be president. I mean, let’s get real here. The Clintons have a 30-year plan. That plan included him running for president and Hillary running next. And we’re watching that plan unfold as we sit here. Hillary enables his behavior for one reason—power. She believes she is entitled to become president, and I can’t think of a more dangerous person.
JW: I can see the argument that she faithfully stood by my husband during all his problems. She learned a lot in the White House. And because of that, she believes she can run the country. And she is a self-proclaimed feminist. What does it mean to be a feminist?
KW: It’s interesting that you would ask that question. If you think about it, where are the women’s groups today? You don’t see them at all. You hardly hear from them. I didn’t hear from them during my case. None of them came to my defense, not one. And I reached out to all of them. For example, Patricia Ireland with NOW wasn’t going to come out against Bill Clinton. He was their guy. He was pro-choice. The Clintons pretty much did away with the feminist movement. The Clintons made a mockery of them and what they should have stood for. Today the women’s movement is concerned about one thing and one thing only, and that is abortion. That’s it. You don’t see them, and you don’t hear from them. They are just not out there, and we can thank the Clintons for that.
JW: Do you believe the Clintons sacrificed the feminist agenda for a political agenda? Is that what you’re saying?
KW: Yes, I do. They pretty much negated the women’s movement and made a mockery of it. Believe me, if my book was about George Bush, you couldn’t keep me off the air waves. They would be out in full force.
JW: Are you still a Democrat?
KW: I am an Independent.
JW: But when you first started volunteering for the Clintons, you were a strong Democrat.
KW: I was. My late husband and I worked very hard on a local and state level for many, many years. We believed in Bill Clinton, and we started Virginians for Clinton. We opened a campaign office and raised a lot of money for him.
JW: And now you believe Bill Clinton betrayed you and that is what turned you into an Independent?
KW: Not one single Democrat came to my defense during the Clinton scandal. Not one.
JW: Were you attacked on the TV talk shows?
KW: I was attacked nightly. The Clinton hit-men got their daily talking points, and they all went on the airwaves night after night.
JW: Do you think Hillary would be capable of achieving political success without being married to Bill?
KW: I don’t think so. She is too polarizing. She is not a likable woman. She really isn’t.
JW: You describe some things in your book about Hillary’s foul language, for example, and how she treated the Secret Service personnel.
KW: Hillary was rude to them. She was very demeaning and talked down to them. She is a very unhappy, angry woman. That is the best way I can describe her after being in the White House.
JW: What is she angry about?
KW: Who knows? Who cares?
JW: If Hillary Clinton is going to be president of the United States, it would be nice to find out who she is angry with.
KW: I think it is that she has been publicly humiliated by her husband time and time again. That would make me pretty angry.
JW: Who do you think runs the Bill-Hillary Clinton partnership?
KW: She does.
JW: She is one strong woman?
KW: She wears the pants in the family.
JW: Don’t you think it’s time for a woman to be president of the United States?
KW: Of course I do. I think there are many women out there who are well-qualified. It is certainly time for a woman to lead this country—just not that woman. It would be dangerous for this country for Hillary to be elected president.
JW: What we are really talking about here is sexual harassment. Do you think sexual harassment is still prominent in political settings?
KW: I do. I think statistics show that about one in three women are subjected to that.
JW: What about Washington, D.C.? Do you think it is still prominent there?
KW: I do.
JW: Even with the Democrats running Congress?
JW: Is there anything that can be done to improve the issue of sexual harassment in Washington?
KW: It’s not just in Washington. It’s everywhere.
JW: Our leaders set the standard.
KW: If our leaders set the standard, where does that leave us after eight years of Bill Clinton?
JW: So what is the solution to all this? How are we going to stop these powerful men from taking advantage of women?
KW: Expose them. I think the first step is exposing them and not being afraid to expose them.
JW: Most people want to believe the president of the United States. They want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even in the Clinton case and the allegations of sexual harassment against him, Clinton’s poll numbers were high. He was still very popular.
KW: Well, Clinton didn’t do a very good job, did he? I’m not proud to say that I had Bill Clinton for president for eight years. Parents were left to explain things to their young children they never had expected to because of Bill Clinton. Children were exposed to the Clinton scandals night after night on television because he can’t control himself. Nor will he admit that he has a problem.
JW: Did Bill and Hillary have a close husband/wife relationship?
KW: No. We saw one thing before the camera and an entirely different one when the cameras were turned off.
JW: What we were seeing was all image?
JW: Isn’t that dangerous in and of itself?
KW: I think it is. They are dangerous.
JW: In your book, you describe a disorganized, chaotic atmosphere in the Clinton White House. You say it was lacking in decorum. Do you think the White House would be in a better state if Hillary were elected?
KW: I think it would be in a worse state.
JW: Why is that?
KW: Because with the Clintons you would have the same people. You see their names now. The same people were with Bill Clinton for eight years. They are all working hard for her campaign now, and we will have the same people back there. We will have the same lack of decorum, lack of manners, lack of dress code and lack of discipline. And it will be scandal after scandal. We are already seeing it now during her campaign. I don’t think this country is ready for that again. Frankly, we don’t deserve it. We deserve much better.
JW: Under the current president, George W. Bush, the White House is embroiled in one scandal after another. This includes criminal allegations. Could it really be any worse under Hillary?
KW: Yes, it could be worse. In my opinion, George Bush is a decent man who loves his wife and cares about his family. That is not the same. The Clintons are not decent people. Hillary Clinton and her ambition have no end.
JW: It sounds like you have lost faith in the political system. Is that true?
KW: No, I haven’t. But I don’t have any respect at all for the Clintons or their followers. I haven’t lost faith in the political system. I am still interested in what goes on politically in this country.
JW: Are you still a voter?
KW: Absolutely. That is a person’s right. I would never not vote.
JW: If you found out that Hillary had turned over a new leaf, would it be different? Let’s say that Hillary is doing everything in private to control Bill. But she doesn’t want to blow her chance to be president. I would assume that someone has to keep him under control.
KW: No one has so far. Why should Hillary start now? She has been enabling his behavior for over 30 years and destroying or trying to destroy the women who have unfortunately crossed paths with Bill. That is a loaded question. I can’t answer that question.
JW: What do you think America would look like with Hillary Clinton as president?
KW: You would have a completely undisciplined White House, a chaotic White House. You would have a power-hungry woman running the White House. You would have all the people who were with Bill Clinton in the White House. You would have a woman who has no clear values in the White House. You would have scandal after scandal after scandal. And you would have a White House and a government run by polls because that is how the Clintons run their lives. Nothing comes from within these people because there isn’t anything within.
JW: There are those who say that all politicians are this way. The present White House under George W. Bush has spinners whose job is to issue propaganda on behalf of the president.
JW: Thus, is it just the Clintons? Aren’t almost all politicians political? Don’t they just want to stay in power? Isn’t that true?
KW: For a lot of politicians, it is about power. I can’t deny that. But I think there are some good people out there. I think John McCain is a good, decent man. I think he went through a terrible time for our country. I think he is a Patriot. When he doesn’t know the answer to something, he will say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but let me see if I can find out the answer and get back with you.” He doesn’t start spinning, and he doesn’t dance around the question. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will say he doesn’t know the answer. When he has made a mistake, he has been a man and stood up and said he made a mistake.
JW: Is there any way you can forgive the Clintons for what they have put you through?
JW: Have you forgiven the Clintons?
KW: In order to move on in your life, you have to have forgiveness in your heart and your soul. If you want to have any kind of serenity and peace, you have to be able to forgive. I forgive them. I know where they are coming from. I pity them. I feel real pity for them.
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN OLDSPEAK ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE.