Prior to Sunday night's presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump hosted a surprise press conference, or what he termed "debate prep," via Facebook Live. Seated on each side of him were Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones—three women who have each accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the past. A fourth woman on the panel, Kathy Shelton, has been highly critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for defending the man who raped her when she was 12.
The move came a few hours before the second presidential debate and days after the release of a video recording obtained by the Washington Post, featuring Trump in 2005 boasting about sexual assault. Trump later apologized for his remarks, calling them "locker-room banter." He also said that "Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course."
Jones, who sued Bill Clinton in the 90s for sexual harassment after he allegedly exposed himself and propositioning her when he was the governor of Arkansas, was the first to offer a statement yesterday. "Well, I'm here to support Mr. Trump because he's going to make America great again," Jones said. "I think everybody else should vote for him. I think they should all look at the fact that he's a good person; he's not what other people have been saying he's been, like Hillary. So, think about that."
Her praise of the candidate comes in spite of the fact that Trump has made several disparaging remarks about her in years past.
In 2002, Trump joked with radio host Howard Stern about Jones participating in a celebrity boxing match. "It was interesting," Trump said. "That Paula Jones fight, she was not very talented. That was pretty pathetic." He goes on to say "it's too bad she didn't run like that from Bill [Clinton]."
A few years earlier, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Trump appeared sympathetic for Clinton. During a 1998 interview on "Hardball with Chris Mathews, Trump said he believed Clinton had received bad advice throughout the proceedings.
It all started with Jones, Trump suggests in the clip. "Paula Jones is a loser," he says, making reference to the fact that her lawsuit against Clinton was dismissed due to her inability to show damages, "but the fact is she may be responsible for bringing down a president indirectly."
In another interview, Trump said that Clinton was the real "victim" during the scandal, The Daily Beast reports, and that the accusers, including Jones, were "an unattractive cast of characters" and seeing them on television had him "just vomiting."
It's a terrible group of people … And I'm not just talking about physical, but I am also talking about physical.
"Linda Tripp [the woman who secretly recorded Lewinsky talking about her relationship with Clinton] may be one of the most unattractive human beings I've ever seen—not women, human beings," Trump told Neil Cavuto during a Fox News interview in 1998, according to transcripts reviewed by The Daily Beast. "She's just an unattractive person. This [Lucianne] Goldberg person, her agent or whatever she is, is just a terrible woman. You look at Paula Jones, I mean the whole cast of characters."
"It's like it's from Hell," he continued. "It's a terrible group of people … And I'm not just talking about physical, but I am also talking about physical."
But, Trump noted, if the accusers looked like supermodels, they "would be more pleasant to watch."
Ironically, a year before Trump appeared to sympathize with Clinton, he too was caught up in a sexual harassment lawsuit. "He was relentless," Jill Harth, a former business partner, told the New York Times. She describes a December 1992 incident in which she and her longtime boyfriend were having dinner with Trump; he sat beside her and allegedly ran his hands up her skirt to her crotch. Another time, she says, while celebrating the signing of a contract, Trump pulled her into his daughter Ivanka's empty bedroom and fondled her and tried to kiss her.
"Harth says that she worried about being raped by a man who weighed twice as much as she did, and at one point she vomited as a defense mechanism," the Times reports. "But she says that he was never violent and genuinely seemed to assume sexual interest on her part; often he was playful as she was frightened."
Eventually, Harth's boyfriend George Houraney sued Trump over business-related matters, and as a condition for settling, Harth withdrew her 1997 suit. Trump has repeatedly denied Harth's allegations.