Fact check: False claim Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones $850,000 in 'hush money'
The claim: Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones $850,000 in 'hush money'
A March 19 Facebook post (direct link, archived link) makes a claim about former President Bill Clinton.
"Democrat Bill Clinton, paid Paula Jones $850,000 in hush money...Why wasn't Clinton arrested?" reads the post's text.
The post generated over 1,000 shares in two days. Similar posts have spread widely on Facebook.
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Our rating: False
Multiple legal experts said Clinton’s $850,000 payment to Jones as part of a settlement agreement is not considered "hush money" since the facts of the case were already publicly known.
Clinton's $850,000 payment was not 'hush money,' legal experts say
The post attempts to equate Clinton's actions with those of former President Donald Trump, who is facing potential indictment connected to $130,000 paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election, as USA TODAY reported.
But experts say the circumstances behind the Clinton and Trump payments are substantially different.
"Clinton paying money to settle a publicly filed lawsuit and Trump paying money to keep Daniels quiet are two very different things," said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers.
Hush money is a term used to describe a payment made in order to keep someone from publicly revealing details about something, according to David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney.
While it is true that Clinton paid $850,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against him in 1994, the civil case in question was already filed, and the facts were public knowledge before the $850,000 payment was made, according to Weinstein.
“Hush money is to keep someone quiet, thus the name,” said Jerry Goldfeder, an election and campaign finance law and public integrity investigations expert. “Paying someone to settle a lawsuit in public is not.”
The civil lawsuit Jones filed against Clinton accused him of sexually harassing and assaulting her while he served as Arkansas’ governor, according to the Washington Post.
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Clinton reached an out-of-court settlement with her in 1998 while he was serving as president and agreed to pay her $850,000 to drop the case, according to CNN.
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, noted the timing relative to an election was also a key difference between the two. The Trump payment was made shortly before the 2016 election Trump ultimately won, while Clinton's payment was made in 1998, "deep into Clinton’s second term in office and irrespective of the 2000 campaign – in which Clinton was not a candidate," he told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the claim for comment.
Check Your Fact also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Bradley Moss, March 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
David Weinstein, March 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Neama Rahmani, March 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Jerry Goldfeder, March 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
USA TODAY, March 18, Is Donald Trump likely to be arrested soon? Will he be indicted? What we know
USA TODAY, March 18, Donald Trump claims he will be arrested Tuesday in Manhattan probe, calls for protests
Associated Press, March 10, The New York hush-money probe of Donald Trump explained
Washington Post, May 1994, IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS WESTERN DIVISION
Washington Post, accessed March 21, Key events in the Jones v. Clinton lawsuit
New York Times, Jan. 13, 1999, Clinton Settles Jones Lawsuit With a Check for $850,000
CNN, Nov. 13, 1998, Jones v. Clinton finally settled
Check Your Fact, Dec. 19, 2018, FACT CHECK: DID BILL CLINTON PAY PAULA JONES $850,000 IN ‘HUSH MONEY’?
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim Bill Clinton paid $850,000 in 'hush money'