July 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Clinton Denies Propositioning Paula Jones President Claims Suit Was Designed To Damage Him Politically

James Jefferson Associated Press
 

President Clinton “adamantly” denied Paula Jones’ claim that he had propositioned her in a hotel room in 1991 and said Thursday that her claim is intended to damage him politically.

In his first formal response to the charges in Jones’ federal sexual harassment lawsuit, Clinton said he does not recall ever meeting her and denied “each and every allegation” set forth in her complaint.

“The president adamantly denies the false allegations advanced in the complaint,” said the response filed by Clinton’s lawyers. “At no time did the president make sexual advances toward the plaintiff or otherwise act improperly in her presence.”

In a legal memorandum accompanying Clinton’s motion to dismiss the suit, the president’s lawyers said that - for argument purposes only - even if the president had propositioned Jones, it should be considered “a single overture - abandoned as soon as she stated it was unwelcome.”

“This alleged conduct is not a deprivation of her constitutional rights,” Clinton’s lawyers said. At no time, Clinton’s filing said, was Jones subjected to a “hostile workplace” - required to prove harassment.

Jones alleges in her suit in U.S. District Court here that she was summoned to Clinton’s room at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock on May 8, 1991, that he exposed himself to her there and asked her to perform a sex act.

Clinton was Arkansas governor at the time and Jones was an employee of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, a state agency that was sponsoring a conference at the hotel.

The president had sought to delay action in the suit until after his term expires, but the U.S. Supreme Court in May ordered it to proceed.

Jones first made the allegations Feb. 11, 1994, at a news conference organized by two attorneys connected to the Conservative Political Action Committee. Her lawsuit claims Clinton branded her a “liar” afterward, defaming her.

Her sexual harassment and defamation suit seeking $700,000 in damages was filed May 6, 1994 - two days before the statute of limitations on the claim expired.

In Clinton’s response, his attorneys noted that Jones had convened a news conference to raise the allegations after a magazine article identified only a “Paula” - no last name - as being summoned to Clinton’s hotel room.

“Plaintiff thrust herself into the public limelight by bringing to the attention of the world that she believed she was the ‘Paula’ referred to in the American Spectator article … and by joining with longtime political opponents of the president who sought to discredit him and his presidency,” Clinton’s response said.

“This, we believe, was done to maximize plaintiff’s potential to derive economic benefit and simultaneously to harm the president politically,” the response said.

Clinton asked U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright - a former law student of his - to dismiss the suit. He said the suit:

Failed to illustrate that he violated her equal protection rights under the Constitution.

Failed to allege “essential elements” of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Failed to prove he defamed her.

Clinton’s attorneys asked for a conference with the judge to consider a plan to begin discovery, the process by which opposing parties take a look at the other side’s evidence.

While some discovery could begin soon, Clinton’s court response asked that substantive matters be put off until after the court considers his request that the suit be tossed out.


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