US & Canada

Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton: Shaming accusers?

Melania Trump stands with her husband, Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on 18 July, 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Melania Trump says the sexual assault claims against her husband are "lies"

As Melania Trump says the sexual assault claims against her husband are "lies", how do her comments compare to Hillary Clinton's about her husband Bill?

Consider what we know so far. Both Republican candidate Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton have been accused of sexual assault.

Both men have faced allegations from multiple women which span several decades.

In the second presidential debate on 9 October, Mr Trump claimed that Mrs Clinton had "viciously attacked" women who accused her husband of sexual assault - or claimed to have had affairs with him.

Now Mr Trump's wife has spoken out against her husband's accusers, what are the differences between her words and those of the former First Lady?

More on the sexual assault claims

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Who are Bill Clinton's accusers?

Mrs Trump has in the past shifted blame when addressing allegations against her husband.

Addressing Mr Trump's lewd remarks in a 2005 tape, in which he claims he can force himself on women because he is "a star", she said he was "egged on" by Billy Bush, then host of NBC's Access Hollywood, "to say dirty and bad stuff".

In an interview with CNN, she said: "I know he respects women, but he is defending himself because they [the allegations] are lies.

"My husband is kind, and he is a gentleman, and he would never do that."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mrs Trump has defended Mr Trump's lewd 2005 comments as "boy talk"

She also justified Mr Trump's decision to appear with the women who have accused Mr Clinton of sexual assault.

Mrs Trump has adopted her husband's line that the media are conspiring to block his path to the White House.

She said of the sexual assault claims: "This was all organised from the opposition. And with the details… did they ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts."

"Checking the backgrounds" of Mr Clinton's alleged partners is an aspect of Mrs Clinton's past behaviour which has alienated some - especially young women - who might otherwise have supported her.

The Washington Post reports that when Mr Clinton launched his presidential run in 1991, his wife and senior staff planned how to deal with "bimbo eruptions" - or claims of infidelity.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Bill and Hillary Clinton pictured with their daughter Chelsea in 1992

In 1992, Mr Clinton's campaign hired a private detective to investigate two dozen women alleging sexual encounters with the president-to-be. It is not known how much involvement Mrs Clinton had in this decision, but Democrat insiders recall her actively fighting her husband's corner.

In his memoir, former White House press secretary George Stephanopoulos refers to one woman's allegation published in Penthouse Magazine. He says that when Mr Clinton declared it untrue, Mrs Clinton said: "We have to destroy her story."

'He's raw'

Both Mrs Trump and Mrs Clinton have been guilty of shaming the "other women".

When Mr Trump ridiculed journalist Natasha Stoynoff - who accuses him of forcibly trying to kiss her - by telling a Florida rally she was not attractive enough to sexually assault, his wife excused his tone, saying: "He's raw. He will say it as he feels it."

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Media captionMichelle Obama and Donald Trump's duelling speeches on women

Mrs Trump said she has seen her husband reject the advances of women "giving phone numbers, and, you know, want(ing) to work for him" - which she said was "inappropriate" on their part.

Mrs Clinton has been accused of deriding and even threatening the women who could potentially damage Mr Clinton's reputation or her own.

When model and actress Gennifer Flowers sold her story about an alleged 12-year affair with Mr Clinton, Mrs Clinton branded her "some failed cabaret singer" in an interview with ABC News. She also told Esquire magazine that if she had the chance to cross-examine Ms Flowers, "I would crucify her".

According to the diary of her close friend Diane Blair, Mrs Clinton privately dubbed White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who had an affair with her husband, a "narcissistic Looney Toon".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hillary Clinton has derided her husband's mistresses in interviews

Mrs Trump told CNN that she agreed with Michelle Obama's statement that kissing or groping a woman without consent was assault. However, she declined to include Mr Trump's taped allusions - where he says "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them" - in this category.

"No, that's not sexual assault," she said. "He didn't say he did it."

Mrs Clinton has been called an "enabler" for defending her husband, and this damaging label re-emerged in November when she tweeted that "every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported".

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Hillary Clinton made her comments in reference to sexual assaults at US universities

The next month, a questioner at a public forum demanded to know if she took the same view of her husband's accusers.

She responded: "I would say that everybody should be believed at first, until they are disbelieved based on evidence."

Two hours before the second presidential debate, Mr Trump appeared on Facebook Live with three women who have accused Mr Clinton of sexual assault - Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey.

Evidence that Mrs Clinton intimidated or insulted these women is either disputed or inconclusive.

Ms Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who says Mr Clinton exposed himself to her in 1991, said recently that when she filed a lawsuit, "they sent out people to dig up trash on me". She has not cited evidence that Mrs Clinton orchestrated this.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bill Clinton's sexual assault accusers (left-right: Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick) attended the second presidential debate

Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Mr Clinton of raping her in 1978, claims that his wife tried to silence her at a fundraiser later that year. She says Mrs Clinton told her: "I just want you to know how much Bill and I appreciate the things you do for him. Do you understand? Everything you do."

In February 1999, Ms Broaddrick appeared to backtrack. She was asked by NBC: "Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?" and replied: "No."

Former White House aide Kathleen Willey, who has alleged that Mr Clinton groped her in his office in 1993, says the political couple wanted to intimidate her out of telling the truth in court.

She says she found a dead cat on her porch, saw a man under her deck at night, and that a stranger in her neighbourhood asked how her children were doing. While Ms Willey says she perceived these events as threatening, none of them have been independently linked to Mrs Clinton.

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