Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas nursing home operator who claims she was raped by President Clinton in 1978, yesterday sent a fiery letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton, asking bluntly if the first lady believes those assertions.
In the 600-word missive, Mrs. Broaddrick, a Clinton campaign worker in Arkansas at the time, recalled meeting Mrs. Clinton at a rally shortly after the purported assault.
At the time, according to the letter, the first lady thanked Mrs. Broaddrick for “everything you do for Bill.”
“What did you mean, Hillary?” Mrs. Broaddrick asks. “Were you referring to my keeping quiet about the assault I had suffered at the hands of your husband only two weeks before? Were you warning me to keep quiet?”
Mrs. Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign declined to comment on the letter.
“I don’t expect them to comment or reply,” Mrs. Broaddrick said in an interview yesterday. “Unless it were some preprinted, canned letter.”
The Broaddrick incident, recounted by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in documents provided to members of Congress, played a role in gaining the vote of wavering House Republicans during the president’s impeachment in December 1998.
Mrs. Broaddrick recanted her story several times, then asserted it again. She said her reluctance to talk about the incident stemmed from a desire to shield her family from public scrutiny.
Yesterday, she again maintained that she was assaulted by the president when he was Arkansas’ attorney general.
Mrs. Broaddrick said her letter was written after she watched a television interview with Rep. Rick Lazio, New York Republican, who is battling Mrs. Clinton for the New York Senate seat.
“It [came from] an accumulation of things with Mrs. Clinton,” said Mrs. Broaddrick. “I think she has been given a free ride by the mainstream media and Lazio is being too soft on her.”
In the letter, Mrs. Broaddrick said that “[television moderator] Brit Hume asked Mr. Lazio’s views regarding you as a person and how he perceived you as a candidate. Rick Lazio did not answer the question, but I know that I can … you are the same conniving, self-serving person you were 22 years ago when I had the misfortune to meet you.”
Mr. Lazio’s campaign declined to comment on the letter.
The rape accusation was first publicly leveled in the Wall Street Journal, then made on an NBC news program.
When her statements were issued at that time, Mr. Clinton’s personal attorney, David E. Kendall, said that “any allegation that the president assaulted Mrs. Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false.”
Mrs. Broaddrick’s accusation was repeated to lawyers in a lawsuit brought against the president by Paula Jones, an Arkansas woman who accused Mr. Clinton of sexually harassing her in 1991, when he was governor and she was a state employee.
Mrs. Broaddrick closed her letter with a challenge to the first lady: “I will end by asking if you believe the statements I made on ‘NBC Dateline’ when Lisa Myers asked if I had been assaulted and raped by your husband?”
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lazio have been close in the polls. New York pollster John Zogby said yesterday’s letter will have no effect on that.
The sides were drawn when Mrs. Broaddrick first made her statement, he said, and most people have already decided on the veracity of the accusation.
“To have an effect in the polls, it will have to be something fairly earth-shaking and it will have to involve Hillary herself,” Mr. Zogby said.