FACT CHECK: Did Bill Clinton Pay Paula Jones $850,000 In ‘Hush Money’?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Many people on Twitter recently said that former President Bill Clinton paid former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones $850,000 in hush money, comparing it to payments made to women who allege that they had affairs with President Donald Trump.

“Clinton paid Paula Jones $850,000 to keep quiet. Msm not bothered at all,” one tweet said Dec. 17.

“You do know Clinton paid hush money too, right? He paid Paula Jones $850k,” another Twitter user said Dec. 15.

Verdict: False

Clinton’s $850,000 payment was part of a lawsuit settlement, not part of an agreement to keep her silent about the alleged incidents. Jones’ allegation was public at the time of the payment.

Fact Check:

In 1998, Jones alleged that Clinton, while serving as governor of Arkansas, propositioned her, exposing himself and touching her without her consent, in a hotel room at a conference in Little Rock, Ark. on May 8, 1991. She said that she rejected Clinton’s advances.

A few details of the encounter became public when The American Spectator magazine published a story in its January 1994 issue, during Clinton’s first term as president, that included an account from a state trooper who brought a woman – identified only as Paula – to Clinton’s hotel room.

Jones went public following the story. She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton in May 1994 that said the Spectator story falsely suggested that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

Clinton settled with Jones in November 1998 but did not admit to any wrongdoing. He paid Jones $850,000 in January 1999 as a part of the settlement, not as a payment in exchange for her silence.

The New York Times reported that $475,000 of the settlement money came from Clinton’s insurance policy against civil liability with Chubb Group Insurance and that most, if not all, of the rest came from then-first lady Hillary Clinton’s blind trust. Jones kept $200,000 from the settlement and the remainder went to her lawyers.

People on social media compared Clinton’s settlement payment to “hush money” payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison Dec. 12 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations relating to payments arranged to McDougal and Clifford.

Clifford received $130,000 and McDougal received $150,000 in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. Both of the women said that they had affairs with Trump in 2006, but signed nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that prevented them from discussing the alleged affairs.

Bradley Moss, a partner at the Mark S. Zaid, P.C., law firm and contributor to Lawfare, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that Clinton’s payment to Jones is not “remotely similar or analogous” to the payments made to McDougal and Clifford. “There is nothing in the law or as a matter of strict fact that brings the $850,000 settlement payment in line with Trump’s hush money payment to Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal,” he said.

Clinton was also not a candidate for office at the time that he made the settlement payment, whereas prosecutors said that the payments to Clifford and McDougal were intended to influence the election and made at the direction of then-candidate Trump, identified as “Individual-1” in the lawsuit.

Moss noted that Jones’ allegations against Clinton were already public knowledge, while the payments to Clifford and McDougal were revealed later.

McDougal was freed from her contract after a settlement in April, and federal court filings showed that neither Trump nor Cohen plan to enforce Clifford’s NDA.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter