William Jefferson Clinton, forty-second president of the United States (1993-2001), and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton were accused by conspiracy theorists, most of them conservative Republicans, of a multitude of misdeeds including drug-dealing, covering up a murderous attack in Waco, lying about their role in the Whitewater scandal, and of killing numerous troublesome witnesses.
Conspiracy theorists’ eagerness to investigate the Clintons had several origins. In his acceptance speech to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Clinton professed his admiration for Carroll Quigley, author of Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966) and famous in conspiracy circles for claiming that the world was run by a secret circle of well-connected financiers. This was seen as a proof that Clinton himself was part of the world-governing cabal. The Monica Lewinsky scandal, during which Internet dirt-diggers such as Matt Drudge proved to be right while Clinton lied, gave added credence to other conspiracy theories. Bill Clinton’s alleged deviousness and lack of honesty, his support for abortion rights and gays in the military, and his wife’s image as a power-hungry lesbian harpy created a multitude of Clinton-haters eager to uncover, or to fabricate, stories proving their involvement in sinister plots. The Internet, which became widely used during Clinton’s two terms in office, provided a perfect medium for the propagation of such conspiracy theories.
One conspiracy theory dates back to Clinton’s years as governor of Arkansas (1978-1980 and 1982-1992), when drug dealer Barry Seal smuggled drugs into a small airfield in Mena, Arkansas. Authors such as Joel Bainerman, in The Crimes of a President (1992), later claimed that the Mena operation was part of a larger federal plot to train and fund Nicaraguan contras. When Clinton refused to launch a state grand jury investigation of the alleged Mena conspiracy, he was accused of being a part of the plot as well. Larry Nichols, a former employee of the state of Arkansas whom Clinton had fired, claimed in numerous interviews to media sources that he had evidence that Clinton used the Mena airport for drug smuggling, and that Clinton intended to kill Nichols for that reason.
On 19 April 1993, FBI troops attacked the embattled Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Federal authorities blamed the building’s occupants for starting the fire that killed sect leader David Koresh and eighty of his followers during the assault, but various documentaries, such as the Oscar-nominated Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997), argued that the FBI used canisters of flammable gases, then ignited them inadvertently and that Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno subsequently conspired to cover up this fatal blunder. A variant of the theory also concludes that three of the four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms who died in a firefight at the compound on 28 February 1993 were former Clinton bodyguards that he sent to Waco to be killed.
Other theories blame Clinton for scores of murders besides the victims of the Waco standoff. Dave Emory, in his syndicated radio program One Step Beyond, calculated that the mortality rate in the Clinton administration was such that it could not be explained by a simple statistical coincidence. Internet sites kept a running list of the “Clinton Body Count,” which included Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, whose plane crashed in Croatia on 3 April 1996 (missing X-ray shots of his head allegedly prove that he was shot to cover up secret technological transfers to China).
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, at the urging of its owner, conservative multimillionaire Richard
Scaife, published numerous stories by Christopher Rudy claiming that White House Counsel Vince Foster, who officially killed himself on 20 July 1993 in Fort Marcy Park, Virginia, was in fact murdered. Foster was a former partner in Hillary Clinton’s Rose Law Firm and his personal files disappeared from his office shortly after his suicide, so Clinton enemies accused the presidential couple of killing Foster to cover up their involvement in the Whitewater property-dealing scandal. Another theory, publicized by Sherman K. Skolnick in his Conspiracy Nation Internet newsletter, claims that Foster was spying for Israel’s Mossad and that he killed himself after Hillary Clinton confronted him with evidence of his treason.
Christian Coalition member Pat Robertson, in his 700 Club televised talk show, and reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, in the Sunday Telegraph, helped propagate Foster conspiracy theories by giving an aura of respectability to them. A 1994 Time-CNN poll showed that only 35 percent of Americans believed that Foster killed himself, proving that the murder theory’s audience was wider than the circle of conservative Republicans, libertarians, and religious fundamentalists spreading other Clinton conspiracy theories.
In May 1994, Rev. Jerry Falwell’s cable television show, Old Time Gospel Hour, repeatedly broadcast excerpts from filmmaker Pat Matrisciana’s Clinton Chronicles, in which she accused Clinton of murdering, among others, Arkansas investigator Jerry Parks to prevent him from publicizing evidence of Clinton’s sexual affairs. A reported 300,000 copies of the film were sold on Falwell’s shows and other venues.
Federal investigators have so far failed to prove any connection between Clinton and the various murders listed on the “body count,” including Foster’s. Concerned by the many conspiracy theories involving her and her husband, Hillary Clinton claimed on 27 January 1998 that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to undermine their credibility. This conspiracy, hatched by the Republic National Committee, included the “Arkansas Project,” in which Scaife spent millions of dollars to dig up scandals dating from Clinton’s years in Arkansas, and on legal help provided to Paula Jones in her sexual harassment lawsuit aimed at Clinton.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attend a Senate swearing-in reception 3 January 2001 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Hillary Clinton was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill earlier in the day.