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Payments to Stormy Daniels and Paula Jones Are a False Parallel
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Payments to Stormy Daniels and Paula Jones Are a False Parallel

Bill Clinton’s payment to Jones was a legal settlement, not hush money.

Paula Jones at the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016, in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last week, a jury in Manhattan found Donald Trump guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. During the trial, a meme contrasting Trump’s treatment to that of Bill Clinton during the Paula Jones scandal went viral across social media. “Didn’t SHE get $800,000 in ‘hush money’ from HIM? I guess that was different.”

The payments are, in fact, quite different.

In Trump’s case, the payments themselves did not land Trump in hot water. Instead, he was charged for falsifying records regarding those payments. Clinton’s payment to Jones, on the contrary, was part of a settlement related to a civil court case that had been public for more than four years.

In 1994, Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment, citing a May 8, 1991, incident at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, when she was a state clerk and Clinton the governor of Arkansas. According to Jones’ declaration in the case, Clinton made unwanted sexual advances and exposed himself to Jones after inviting her to his private suite.

Jones did not initially report the incident to law enforcement, but eventually filed a civil suit against Clinton in May 1994, after he was elected president, demanding $700,000 in damages and an apology. The case was dismissed almost four years later after Judge Susan Wright ruled that Jones could not prove that she had suffered sexual harassment and emotional distress, but Jones’ lawyers appealed the ruling. In November 1998, following his impeachment in the House of Representatives for lying under oath and obstructing justice in the course of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton settled the case with Jones out of court. In the settlement, Clinton agreed to pay Jones $850,000 in damages to drop her case against him. However, he was not required to admit guilt or issue an apology. Approximately $375,000 of the sum was paid out of a blind trust belonging to Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the remaining $475,000 provided by an insurance company that helped fund his legal defense.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.