Officials at Sunday night’s presidential debate threatened to have security remove four women, three of whom have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, if they were seated in Donald Trump’s family box, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The Trump campaign planned to have Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Kathy Shelton sit in the Republican nominee’s "VIP" box, which would have allowed them to confront Bill Clinton face to face upon entering the debate hall. Broaddrick, Jones, and Willey have all accused Clinton of sexual assault. Kathy Shelton was a victim of sexual assault when she was 12 years old, and Hillary Clinton was chosen by a judge to defend the 41-year-old assailant.
Debate officials stopped the plan at the last minute, according to the Post.
The campaign’s plan, which was closely held and unknown to several of Trump’s top aides, was thwarted just minutes before it could be executed when officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates intervened. The commission officials warned that, if the Trump campaign tried to seat the accusers in the elevated family box, security officers would remove the women, according to the people involved, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.
The gambit to give Bill Clinton’s accusers prime seats was devised by Trump campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and Jared Kushner, the candidate’s son-in-law, and approved personally by Trump. The four women–three of whom have alleged Bill Clinton sexually assaulted or harassed them years ago–were to walk in the debate hall at the same time as the 42nd president and confront him in front of a national television audience.
An official with the debate commission told the campaign that if they tried to seat the women in Trump’s box, all four would be removed by security. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was also told they would not be able to seat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) in the Clinton family box.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a vocal Trump supporter, said that Frank J. Fahrenkopf, the debate commission’s co-chairman and a former Republican National Committee chairman, rejected the idea when he heard about it.
Giuliani criticized Fahrenkopf after the debate Sunday for letting billionaire Mark Cuban, a Trump critic and Clinton surrogate, sit in the front row at the first presidential debate while restricting family box seating at the second.
The debate officials gave no reason for restricting who the campaigns could have in their respective family boxes on Sunday night.