Just a few weeks ago, reports broke that Bill Clinton had flown at least 11 times on “The Lolita Express” — a private plane owned by the mysterious financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. According to Virginia Roberts, who claims to have been one of Epstein’s many teenaged sex slaves, Clinton also visited Epstein’s private Caribbean retreat, known as “Orgy Island.”
Is Bill Clinton’s baggage going to derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes?Photo: WireImage
“I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ ” Roberts said in 2011. The former president, she added, was accompanied by four young girls during his stay — two of whom were among Epstein’s regular sex partners. “And [Jeffrey] laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor.’ He never told me what favors they were.”
Clinton also spent years traveling and partying with Ron Burkle, a billionaire bachelor with a penchant for very young girls. Clinton spent so much time on Burkle’s private plane that it came to be known in Burkle’s circle as “Air F—k One.”
And that is to say nothing of Bill’s solicitation of mystery donors, the concerns about financial malfeasance at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Bill’s racially charged verbal gaffes during Hillary’s 2008 bid and the alleged longtime, serious mistress that diverted Hillary’s presidential campaign from larger problems.
To be clear, none of this is ancient history, affairs and misbehaviors that the nation has absorbed and seemingly forgiven. These are ongoing compulsions, tugs toward self-destruction that look to destroy his wife instead.
Bill never stopped being Bill.
“Bimbo eruption” entered the lexicon in 1992, coined by then-candidate Bill Clinton’s aide Betsey Wright, who’d long seen Bill’s other women come and go. Yet during his first presidential campaign, Bill and Hillary shrewdly navigated the reports of his longtime infidelity, just as they would during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and resulting impeachment.
In the years since Bill left the White House and Hillary’s own stature has soared, the subtext of their narrative has been successful: Whatever the true nature of their marriage, that’s between them — which is fair when the issue is monogamy between consenting adults.
But when you’re running for office as the first female president of the United States — who, by the way, has spent her entire life advocating for women’s and children’s rights — and your husband has spent years consorting with at least one known pedophile who ensnared girls as young as 14 into his private sex ring, it’s a potentially insurmountable liability.
As it is, Bill supposedly was the reason Hillary initially declined then-President-elect Obama’s offer to be secretary of state.
According to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s 2010 book “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime,” Hillary told Obama that she was most worried about the damage Bill could do.
“You know my husband,” she said. “You know I can’t control him, and at some point he’ll be a problem.”
Also reported in the book was the existence of a “war room within a war room” during Hillary’s campaign. It was devoted solely to tracking down reports of Bill’s womanizing. What did they learn? Here, in the midst of his wife’s historic campaign, Bill was involved in a serious relationship with another woman.
This, according to “Game Change,” was Hillaryland’s nightmare: “What everyone who signed up with Hillary feared each waking day.”
Hillary took another hit when Claire McCaskill, the prominent Democratic senator from Missouri, weighed in on Bill’s reputation on “Meet the Press.”
“I think he’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.” Senator Claire McCaskill told “Meet the Press,” to which Hillary reportedly responded, “f—k her.”Photo: AP
“I think he’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
“F—k her,” Hillary said.
McCaskill endorsed Obama.
It was Bill’s close relationships with Burkle and Epstein, however, that were Hillary’s true threat. In an exposé published in Vanity Fair’s July 2008 issue, Todd Purdum — husband of Bill’s former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers — wrote of the former president’s depraved, “motley crew” of wealthy hangers-on and enablers.
Clinton had been close with Burkle, a self-made billionaire, for well over a decade. Burkle, 62, had long kept his private plane stocked with girls as young as 19, and according to author Mark Ebner, Burkle was well-known as a longtime patron of high-end prostitutes. In an excised chapter from his biography of Paris Hilton, which he later posted online, Ebner wrote that Burkle and billionaire Ted Field hired Hilton, among others, to fly to Vegas for sex.
“We would party pretty hard,” a source told Ebner. “Paris got naked, and the girls would get naked . . . There were times when you would have Ted or Ron come down, and they would pretty much pay for girl-on-girl action . . . They’d pay to watch girls going at it.”
Another member of their circle was Steve Bing, a wealthy playboy with a private jet. (Bing is best known as the father of Elizabeth Hurley’s child, and Hurley was later linked to Clinton by her ex-boyfriend Tom Sizemore. Hurley has denied an affair.)
Billionaire Ron Burkle, above, and Steve Bing, below, were two known playboys that Clinton ran around with. Burkle’s private plane came to be known within his circle as “Air F—k One.”Photo: Getty Images
One former Clinton aide told Purdum that Bill’s seedy social circle was, at best, perplexing. “I just think those guys are radioactive,” the aide said. “I stay far away from them.”
In the run-up to Hillary’s 2008 bid, other aides and associates were alarmed by even more rumors: that Clinton had hooked up with actress Gina Gershon on Burkle’s jet; the sightings with a powerful Canadian businesswoman; the random one night stands while traveling. Purdum wrote that an executive ran into Clinton, Bing and a gaggle of gorgeous young women in an elevator in Manhattan. He was shocked to see an ex-president in such company. “I don’t know what the guy was doing,” he reportedly said, “but it was so clear that it was just no good.”
By 2010, Bill’s friendship with Burkle was publicly done. Though Bill had made an estimated $15 million while working as Burkle’s pitchman, he’d begun distancing himself in 2007 and formally severed the relationship after Hillary was up for secretary of state.
In the aftermath, three of Bill’s aides went to the press — presumably with his assent — to claim that Burkle still owed Bill $20 million but that Bill had chosen to take the high road and walk away. Burkle, who rarely gives interviews, sat down with Bloomberg Businessweek to make his feelings about the former president clear.
“When Clinton left the presidency, he had to make money, and there were certain limits on how he could do it,” Burkle told the magazine. “In [some] ways, it was the dumbest thing I ever did.”
He also said that of the two of them, Bill was the liability. “If someone wanted to embarrass him,” Burkle said, “I got thrown in too. I got all that for free.”
Why would a man with Bill Clinton’s history cultivate friends like these? This is, after all, the candidate whose campaign was nearly derailed by the emergence of his longtime mistress, Gennifer Flowers, in 1992. Then came Paula Jones (claiming sexual harassment), Kathleen Willey (same), Juanita Broaddrick (rape) and, most famously, Lewinsky, the White House intern whose liaisons with Clinton led to his impeachment.
Paula Jones, right, accused Bill of sexual harassment. And Gennifer Flowers came out as his longtime mistress during his campaign in 1992.Photo: DMI; Reuters
According to Lewinsky’s testimony in the Starr Report, Clinton told her that he’d had “hundreds of affairs” early on in his marriage, but now he was trying to be faithful. That, she said, was the reason he gave for ending their relationship.
The former president has also been rumored to have had affairs with Barbra Streisand, Eleanor Mondale, Sharon Stone and most recently with a woman code-named “Energizer” by his Secret Service detail.
Bill’s decision to befriend Epstein, however, seems uniquely self-destructive.
Epstein, 62, is often called a self-made billionaire, though his actual net worth remains undocumented. He began his career as a teacher at Dalton before leaving for Bear Stearns and then going into business for himself as a financial adviser. According to a 2002 profile in New York magazine, Epstein only took clients who invested at least $1 billion and gave him complete control of the money.
Bill poses with Nevada prostitutes Barbie Girl, left, and Ava Adora at a charity event in Los Angeles in March.Photo: Facebook
Epstein is also a career collector of mega-rich, mega-powerful friends: in addition to Bill Clinton, Epstein has socialized with Stephen Hawking and Prince Andrew.
Virginia Roberts, who filed an affidavit in Florida federal court, claims that she was groomed by Epstein’s longtime companion Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, to become one of Epstein’s many underage “sex slaves” when she was 15 years old.
Now 31, married and a mother of three, Roberts claims in court documents that Epstein later forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew three times, once as part of an 11-person orgy.
“Epstein and Maxwell trained me to do what they wanted, including sexual activities and the use of sexual toys,” she says in court documents. “The training was in New York and Florida, in Epstein’s mansions. It was basically every day and was like going to school. I also had to have sex with Epstein many times. I was trained to be ‘everything a man wanted.’ ”
Prince Andrew has denied Roberts’ claims. Roberts also stated she never saw Bill Clinton having sex with anyone.
According to the 2002 New York profile, Epstein became friendly with Bill when the former president was shopping around for a free private plane ride to Africa. Along for the trip were the actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker.
Flight logs show that Bill flew on Epstein’s private plane at least 11 times, one of which a soft-core porn star was on board.Photo: Gregory P. Mango
Flight logs show that Bill Clinton would later fly Epstein’s private plane at least 11 times — several with Maxwell on board, and at least once with a soft-core porn star. Roberts has also said that Clinton visited Epstein’s private island, dubbed “Orgy Island,” several times. Court documents show that Epstein had 21 private e-mail addresses and phone numbers for Clinton and an aide.
In 2005, Palm Beach police responded to a complaint filed by a woman who claimed her 14-year-old daughter was lured to Epstein’s mansion. There, the girl was forced to undress and massage Epstein and was paid $300.
In all, it’s believed Epstein had 40 victims in Palm Beach alone. The Daily Beast reported that some of Epstein’s victims claimed he imported girls from Europe and South America, and that three were 12 years old. They were a treat to himself for his birthday.
Epstein hired a team of lawyers — among them Ken Starr, Bill Clinton’s old nemesis. In the end, Epstein pled guilty to just one count of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. He served a year under nominal house arrest.Bill Clinton cut ties with Epstein 10 years ago, but the emergence of these flight logs raises serious questions. Since leaving the White House, Bill, now 68, has repositioned himself as a humanitarian, distinguished elder statesman and supportive husband, softened by a quadruple bypass in 2004, his daughter’s marriage and the birth of his granddaughter last year.
The old Bill, the quaint letch, was meant to be left behind in the 1990s. But clearly, that was never the case. If anything, Bill seems to have become more reckless.
In 1998, at the height of the Lewinsky scandal and looming impeachment, he managed to save his own presidency in large part because Hillary stood by him. In return, he was meant to do what it took when it was her turn to run.
If, on some level, he wanted her to lose the nomination, he did a great job. What became clear to Hillary’s camp through the 2008 campaign, according to “Game Change,” was that Bill Clinton would do whatever he wanted to do. His blow-up right before the South Carolina primary, in which he called Obama’s anti-war stance “a fairy tale,” led to her crushing defeat.
“On garish display,” the authors wrote, “was Clinton violating the cardinal rule that was supposed to govern his conduct from the start of Hillary’s campaign: Don’t overshadow your wife.”
And so it begins, again.