TRUTH & CON­SE­QUENCES

A woman who ac­cused the pres­i­dent of grop­ing nearly lost ev­ery­thing, un­til con­ser­va­tives ral­lied to save her home

Windsor Star - - WEEKEND REVIEW - JES­SICA CONTRERA

Thirty-nine days be­fore she would lose the home she loved, Kath­leen Wil­ley poured her cof­fee, fed the dogs and clicked on the TV above her fire­place. Fox News was the ever-present back­ground noise to her life, but on this morn­ing, Wil­ley would be pay­ing close at­ten­tion. Chris­tine Blasey Ford and Brett Ka­vanaugh were about to tes­tify be­fore Congress.

A woman ac­cus­ing a pow­er­ful man of sex­ual as­sault. Her story be­ing picked apart. Her cred­i­bil­ity ques­tioned. All of it, Wil­ley had ex­pe­ri­enced, too, and so she opened her lap­top to check her Go­FundMe page once again.

“Thanks to all of you for your un­der­stand­ing and sup­port through th­ese tur­bu­lent years. Ever since I be­came in­volved in the Clin­ton im­peach­ment 21 years ago ...” it be­gan, though most peo­ple on the page Help Kath­leen Wil­ley Save Her Home al­ready knew her story. In 1993, she’d been a White House vol­un­teer when, she told friends and col­leagues, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton kissed and groped her against her will.

When the al­le­ga­tions were leaked nearly four years later, Wil­ley was thrust into the po­lit­i­cal scan­dal of the cen­tury. Her story — which she even­tu­ally told to 60 Min­utes, the FBI and a grand jury — was em­phat­i­cally de­nied by Clin­ton, who stated he did noth­ing more than com­fort Wil­ley when she was up­set. Ever since, the or­deal has shaped her life. She be­lieves it is why she has prob­lems with trust. Why she strug­gles to find a good job. Why, at least in part, she is in fi­nan­cial peril, about to lose her tim­ber-frame cot­tage to fore­clo­sure. For 21 years, Wil­ley has lived down this se­cluded gravel road in the woods of Powhatan, Va., a com­mu­nity west of Rich­mond. The three-bed­room house on 10 acres is as­sessed at $279,200, but af­ter two home-eq­uity loans, Wil­ley is more than $350,000 in debt on the prop­erty.

She has filed for bank­ruptcy five times, in­clud­ing ear­lier this year, to stave off fore­clo­sure. In Septem­ber, her loan ser­vicer no­ti­fied her that the house would be auc­tioned off on Nov. 5.

If she couldn’t come up with enough money to sat­isfy the bank, Wil­ley, at age 72, would lose the home she shares with two dogs and three cats.

“I’ve been pray­ing to God to help me,” she said. “I can’t let my­self think about be­ing home­less.” She had no at­tor­ney, no fam­ily mem­bers com­ing to her aid, no plan. She’d tried crowd­fund­ing be­fore, with­out much suc­cess. But this time around, her Go­FundMe page was get­ting more trac­tion than usual. In two weeks, she had raised $12,660.

As one of three Clin­ton ac­cusers who cam­paigned for Don­ald Trump, Wil­ley never thought what she calls the “toxic” #MeToo move­ment would do any­thing for her.

Yet as the ap­point­ment of a con­ser­va­tive Supreme Court jus­tice hung in the bal­ance, it seemed peo­ple were pay­ing at­ten­tion to Wil­ley once again. The ac­cu­sa­tions against Ka­vanaugh ap­peared to be driv­ing donors to her page. “Keep on fight­ing!” said some­one who sent $10.

“Love and ad­mire you for stand­ing up for what is right,” came a note with $50.

They knew. You could tell that they knew. I fi­nally got to the point where I re­al­ized peo­ple were in­ter­view­ing me just so they could say they met me. Kath­leen Wil­ley

I cried be­cause I felt like some­body was run­ning for pres­i­dent who loved our coun­try.

“God Bless you Kath­leen!” donated $100.

The to­tal kept ris­ing that day, as Ford de­scribed be­ing vic­tim­ized as a teenager.

Wil­ley watched her with a mix of par­ti­san skep­ti­cism and grudg­ing sym­pa­thy, aware of how it feels for a story of as­sault to be­come a na­tional spec­ta­cle. Maybe the coun­try had started to be­lieve women who ac­cused coaches, co­me­di­ans or CEOs. But Wil­ley knew when it came to pol­i­tics, cred­i­bil­ity of­ten hinged on the party, not the per­son. In the 1990s, she was a vic­tim of that di­vide — dis­owned and ridiculed by Clin­ton’s Demo­cratic de­fend­ers. Now, she is a diehard con­ser­va­tive. And this time, the di­vide seemed to be work­ing in her favour. She raised hun­dreds of dol­lars the day of the hear­ing, and thou­sands more was on its way. “Un­like the fake al­le­ga­tions against Ka­vanaugh,” one donor would write, “I know yours are true.”

She thought the pres­i­dent could help fix her prob­lem. Wil­ley, who had raised money for Clin­ton’s cam­paign be­fore be­com­ing a White House vol­un­teer, sud­denly needed an in­come. Her lawyer hus­band, she’d learned, had stolen money from his clients, cre­at­ing mar­i­tal and fi­nan­cial tur­moil. On Nov. 29, 1993, the 47-year-old mother of two went to Clin­ton to ask for a paid job.

Wil­ley al­leges Clin­ton pushed her against the cor­ner in the pri­vate hall­way be­hind the Oval Of­fice, kissed her, forced her hand onto his gen­i­tals and reached up her skirt, say­ing, “I’ve wanted to do this since the first time I laid eyes on you.”

Only when she dived for the door did she get away.

Shaken, she con­fided in Linda Tripp, a White House staffer who went on to se­cretly record con­ver­sa­tions with an in­tern named Mon­ica Lewin­sky. Then Wil­ley went home to look for her hus­band, Ed, who af­ter a blowout fight in front of their chil­dren wasn’t re­turn­ing her calls.

She spent hours search­ing, only to learn Ed had driven to an­other county, walked into a marsh and shot him­self. The sui­cide ir­repara­bly dam­aged Wil­ley’s fam­ily and left her fi­nan­cially adrift. What she had left was her role at the White House — to which she re­turned around Christ­mas. For more than three years, she told only close friends about what had hap­pened with Clin­ton. But in 1997, the le­gal team of Paula Jones, who was su­ing Clin­ton for sex­ual ha­rass­ment, re­ceived a tip about Wil­ley. That tip was passed onto a Newsweek re­porter. The ru­mour of that tip was pub­lished on the Drudge Re­port. Jones’ lawyers sub­poe­naed Wil­ley. Soon, she was a co-op­er­at­ing wit­ness in the case against Clin­ton, a tan­gled web of ac­cu­sa­tions, de­nials, af­fi­davits, FBI re­ports and unan­swered ques­tions that would ul­ti­mately re­sult in the pres­i­dent’s im­peach­ment. In the process, Wil­ley’s cred­i­bil­ity was ques­tioned, and in the eyes of many, de­stroyed. Along with Clin­ton’s own de­nials, Tripp claimed Wil­ley looked de­lighted when she spoke of her tryst with the pres­i­dent. A friend of Wil­ley’s who at first cor­rob­o­rated her story re­canted, say­ing Wil­ley asked her to lie. When Wil­ley gave an in­ter­view to 60 Min­utes, the White House re­leased ador­ing let­ters she wrote to the pres­i­dent af­ter the al­leged in­ci­dent.

Even Ka­vanaugh, who at the time worked for in­de­pen­dent coun­sel Ken­neth W. Starr, pressed his boss to leave Wil­ley ’s al­le­ga­tions out of the re­port call­ing for Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment. The proof in her case was no more than “he-said/she said,” Ka­vanaugh wrote in a memo. “Bot­tom line: We look un­hinged to in­clude Wil­ley.” In­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics Wil­ley de­scribed to the FBI — strangers threat­en­ing her chil­dren, nails punc­tur­ing her tires, the skull of her miss­ing cat ap­pear­ing on her porch — were mocked. Even prom­i­nent fem­i­nists scorned her, with Glo­ria Steinem declar­ing that her story, if true, was proof only that Clin­ton “took ‘no’ for an an­swer.” For Wil­ley, that time was like her set of Rus­sian nesting dolls, a gift from a friend’s trip to Moscow. On the out­er­most doll is a paint­ing of Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton. Open it up, and the doll in­side is Lewin­sky, the young woman whose dal­liance with the pres­i­dent led to Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment.

The next doll is Jones, who ac­cused Clin­ton of ex­pos­ing him­self to her. Then Gen­nifer Flow­ers, who re­counted an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair that Clin­ton de­nied then ad­mit­ted. And then came the tini­est doll, a minia­ture Kath­leen Wil­ley. To her, that mo­ment in the Oval Of­fice had up­ended her life. But to the world, she was just one lit­tle piece of a much big­ger story. For most of the next decade, Wil­ley kept out of the pub­lic eye. She pur­chased her home in Powhatan with her hus­band’s life in­sur­ance money. She got re­mar­ried and di­vorced. She worked at a bak­ery, at Saks Fifth Av­enue and as a real es­tate agent, but never landed the higher-pay­ing jobs she wanted. Lack of a col­lege de­gree and dif­fi­culty with com­put­ers didn’t help. But nei­ther did her past. “They knew. You could tell that they knew,” she re­called.

“I fi­nally got to the point where I re­al­ized peo­ple were in­ter­view­ing me just so they could say they met me.”

She be­came deeply con­ser­va­tive — one of many rea­sons she re-emerged in 2007 with a book: Tar­get: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton. Hil­lary was run­ning for pres­i­dent, and Wil­ley wanted the pub­lic to know she was com­plicit in her hus­band’s crimes. And, she said, “I was in a bad po­si­tion and I needed some money.” WorldNetDaily paid her $16,000. Come 2016, Wil­ley wasn’t just against Hil­lary. She was whole­heart­edly for Trump, from the day he an­nounced his can­di­dacy. “I cried be­cause I felt like some­body was run­ning for pres­i­dent who loved our coun­try,” she re­mem­bered.

She said po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant Roger Stone of­fered to pay her $5,000 a month to fly around the coun­try speak­ing out against the Clin­tons. She agreed, but she wasn’t sent to any events un­til The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a record­ing of Trump brag­ging about grab­bing women’s gen­i­tals with­out their con­sent.

The tape didn’t change her mind. “I mean I wasn’t real happy about it, but I knew that no­body got raped,” she said. “That’s a big dif­fer­ence.” She said she wasn’t aware that more than a dozen women had come for­ward with sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against Trump. So Wil­ley ap­peared at the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate, along­side Jones and Juanita Broad­drick, who claims Clin­ton raped her in 1978.

The stunt caused a me­dia frenzy, in­tro­duced the al­le­ga­tions to younger vot­ers and, best of all to Wil­ley, left Bill Clin­ton with “that shifty look in his eyes.”

The next day, Trump in­voked Wil­ley’s name at a rally, ar­gu­ing that the for­mer pres­i­dent was “a preda­tor” en­abled by his wife. But Stone — who de­clined to talk about his in­ter­ac­tions with Wil­ley — never came through with the money, Wil­ley said. And over the next two years, her life only seemed to grow harder.

She broke her shoul­der, tore a ro­ta­tor cuff and had back surgery for a slipped disk. Her only in­come was $1,318 a month in So­cial Se­cu­rity. It never seemed to be enough. In 2017, as the #MeToo move­ment be­gan top­pling ti­tans of Hol­ly­wood and Capi­tol Hill, Bill Clin­ton’s sex­ual mis­con­duct was not left out of the con­ver­sa­tion. “The women in­volved had far more cred­i­ble ev­i­dence than many of the most no­to­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tions that have (re­cently) come to light,” Caitlin Flana­gan wrote in the At­lantic. Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, D-N.Y., sug­gested that Clin­ton should have re­signed.

But where, Wil­ley thought, were the real con­se­quences? All around her, she could see them in her own life. No one from the #MeToo move­ment was go­ing to change that. “They have paid ab­so­lutely no at­ten­tion to Juanita, Paula, Gen­nifer or me,” she said. “We were con­ser­va­tive, and so we didn’t count.” Seven days be­fore fore­clo­sure and Fox News was on again, but this time Wil­ley wasn’t watch­ing. She was wait­ing for the call. Her loan ser­vicer. Any minute now. She turned up the vol­ume on her land line, then set it on the ta­ble in front of her, be­side a leather­bound Bible, a Mega Mil­lions ticket and the paint colour brochures she’d picked up when she still had hope she could keep the house. For the first time in weeks, that hope was back.

A re­tired busi­ness­woman in Cal­i­for­nia whom she knew only from Face­book had sent her a mes­sage say­ing, “I might be able to help you.” They talked on the phone. It both­ered the woman, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity, that con­ser­va­tives who trot­ted out Wil­ley as an anti-Clin­ton show­piece weren’t com­ing to her aid now. It both­ered her that crowd­sourc­ing for Ford, a Ka­vanaugh ac­cuser who struck her as “men­tally un­sta­ble,” had raised more than $800,000.

She had al­ways ad­mired Wil­ley, she said in an in­ter­view. And be­cause her mar­riage had re­cently ended, she sud­denly felt em­pow­ered to spend her money how she wished.

She took money she had saved for her kitchen ren­o­va­tion and wired it to Wil­ley.

It was $50,000.

With the $37,805 that 749 peo­ple donated to her on Go­FundMe, Wil­ley now had nearly $90,000. Maybe, she thought, that was enough to halt the fore­clo­sure. Maybe they would rene­go­ti­ate her loan. Maybe she could re­pub­lish her book with an ad­den­dum, and write about the way she thought #MeToo has gone off the rails, and how she wouldn’t want to be a man dat­ing to­day and ...

The phone rang.

“OK,” she said. “Here it is.” “Hello?” she an­swered. “Speak­ing. How are you?”

“The good news is I have raised over $100,000,” she said. “Now I’m flush with money! I can still live off my So­cial Se­cu­rity if I am care­ful and I can stock the $100,000 away and make my monthly pay­ment,” she said. “I think it will be a good deal for you, and a good deal for me,” she said. She said the agent was en­cour­ag­ing, telling her: “That’s good news.” And, “I’ll be back in touch with you in a day or two.”

The call clicked off. She sank into the couch and cov­ered her face in her hands. She started to laugh. “God almighty,” she said. “I’ve been sit­ting here think­ing about what am I go­ing to do for Christ­mas and where am I go­ing to put all this fur­ni­ture and I lit­er­ally sat here, ev­ery night, and ... and I am think­ing, ‘How in the name of God am I go­ing to be able to emo­tion­ally pack things up and put them in stor­age and then, go where?’ ” All she had to do was wait for the loan ser­vicer to call back. She had the money. They could come up with a new pay­ment plan.

She opened up her Go­FundMe page, checked her to­tal again. She scrolled to the com­ments and reread them again.

“I don’t be­lieve any­one should be pun­ished for telling the truth.” “Put your trust in Je­sus and he will give you His grace to get through this. God will pun­ish the Clin­tons, if not in this life it will be in the next one for all eter­nity.” “I be­lieve this sur­vivor!” Four days be­fore the fore­clo­sure, her phone rang again. Her loan could be rene­go­ti­ated, the agent told her. Wil­ley could keep her house.

PHO­TOS: JU­LIA RENDLEMAN/THE WASH­ING­TON

Kath­leen Wil­ley, see here ather home in Powhatan, Va., told friends and col­leagues in 1993 Bill Clin­ton kissed and groped her against her will.

Kath­leen Wil­ley had taken out two home-eq­uity loans and filed for bank­ruptcy five times to try to save her house. “I’ve been pray­ing to God to help me,” Wil­ley said. “I can’t let my­self think about be­ing home­less.”

JU­LIA RENDLEMAN/FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

When Kath­leen Wil­ley’s al­le­ga­tions against Bill Clin­ton were leaked, she was im­me­di­ately thrust into the po­lit­i­cal scan­dal of the cen­tury.

DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG

Kath­leen Wil­ley, left, Juanita Broad­drick and Kathy Shel­ton sit in the au­di­ence ahead of the sec­ond U.S. pres­i­den­tial de­bate be­tween Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump in St. Louis in 2016.

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