On 3 October 2016, five weeks before the U.S. presidential election, a decades-old tabloid story revealing the supposed existence of a "love child" fathered by former president Bill Clinton in 1985 was resurrected by the Daily Mail, a London tabloid.
Adorning the article were side-by-side photos comparing the facial features of Clinton and a 30-year-old mixed-race man named Danney Williams (or "Danney Williams-Clinton," as he prefers to call himself on Facebook), who claims that he is that love child and all he wants to do is meet his real dad — but he may never get a chance to, because Bill Clinton's wife Hillary, who is also (far from coincidentally) the current Democratic contender for the presidency, has "banished" him.
The Drudge Report pushed the story stateside, hyperlinking from its landing page to the Daily Mail article, Danney Williams' Twitter and Facebook pages, and a video by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: "Hillary Had Bill's Mixed Race Son Banished."
Behind the Bushes
The story first grabbed international headlines when Bill Clinton was preparing to run for president in 1992, the Mail reported:
The Globe interviewed Danney's mother, a former prostitute named Bobbie Ann Williams, who told the story of how she allegedly met and began a relationship with Clinton in 1984.
She says Clinton went out for a run one day in Little Rock, when he jogged by her housing project and introduced himself to her. She was 24 years old at the time.
A few days later, Clinton allegedly jogged by the housing project again and paid Bobbie $200 for her to have sex with him behind some bushes.
After that, Bobbie says that she and Clinton regularly had sex, sometimes alone, sometimes with other female partners.
When she found herself pregnant in 1985, Bobbie Ann Williams suspected from the beginning that it was Clinton's child, the story continues. She informed Clinton of the pregnancy, she said, but he laughed and said it couldn't be his. She became convinced beyond all doubt that Clinton was the father after the child was born on Dec. 7, 1985, because Danney had light skin, Williams told The Globe. She said Clinton was her only white client when she became pregnant. Williams is African American.
Paternity Test: Negative
Despite failing to attract mainstream media attention in its first outing, the Clinton love child melodrama was revisited in the late '90s by the conservative web site Newsmax, whose dogged coverage (amid claims of being strong-armed by Clinton operatives) led to the commissioning of a DNA paternity test by another weekly tabloid, Star magazine. Drudge Report picked up the story at this point, claiming the revelations had "rocked the White House" and would lead to a "paternity showdown."
But no showdown occurred. Contrary to expectations, the paternity test determined that Bill Clinton was not Danney Williams' father, Time magazine reported on 18 July 1999:
Using the Starr Report's FBI analysis of Clinton's DNA as its reference, Star paid former prostitute Bobbie Ann Williams, the source for the Globe article, and her 13-year-old son for their story and blood samples. And the result: "There was no match. Not even close," says a Star source. (The Starr Report contains sufficient data to make a valid DNA comparison to rule out paternity.) But if the tabloid was disappointed by the results, it's putting up a good, Brill's Content-ready front. Says editor in chief Phil Bunton: "We investigate dozens of stories every week, and if they don't prove to be true, we don't run them."
Ironically, given how enthusiastically they participated in reviving the story in 2016, it was the Drudge Report that hammered the final nail in its coffin:
"The Starr Report contains sufficient data to make a valid DNA comparison to rule out paternity," TIME magazine reported.
The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that 13-year old Danny Williams is now dealing with the news that Bill Clinton is not his father.
"Danny is holding up fine ... doing quite well," a source close to the situation in Arkansas explained on Saturday.
"For him, this was always just a search for the truth," the source added.
In what now must be viewed as a cruel hoax by the boy's mother — Bobbie Ann Williams even gave a paid interview to PARAMOUNT's HARD COPY detailing her "relationship" with Bill Clinton — the story of sex for money that ended in pregnancy itself, in the end, was debunked and flunked by science.
That was not the last the world would hear of the story, however. On 17 June 2018, the same day Danney Williams tweeted a bittersweet Father's Day greeting to Bill Clinton, Haitian-American entrepreneur Carl Bavensky Paul offered a $20,000 donation to Donald Trump's next political campaign if the president would use his power to get Clinton to agree to a paternity test:
Can you use your presidential power to get @BillClinton to Do a DNA for this kid @danney_williams cause im curious about the result so does everyone else... I'm willing to pay for the test including a $20k donation on your next Campaign.
Thank you Mr. @POTUS
— Carl Barvensky Paul (@c_barvensky) June 17, 2018
Remainder of Doubt
In fairness, there were a couple of issues with the reliability of the original paternity test. One was its origin: the tabloids. Despite running with the story, Time's only source for the Clinton paternity results was Star magazine (indeed, The Clintons' War on Women co-author and former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone claims there is no evidence the test was ever conducted). The other was a 1999 piece published in Slate arguing that because it was based on the limited analysis provided in the Starr Report and not a new DNA sample, the test results were inconclusive:
The FBI performed two genetic fingerprinting tests on the president's DNA. The Starr report, for unexplained reasons, gives data only for the less specific of the two tests. In fact, this test is imprecise enough that it would probably not be persuasive to a judge. Dr. George Riley of Genelex--a well-regarded forensic DNA lab--calculates that the genetic fingerprint given in the Starr report will most likely yield a so-called "paternity index" of only 20 to 30. In other words, a positive test would mean that President Clinton is only 20 to 30 times more likely than a random Caucasian male to be Danny Williams' father. This would be suggestive but not conclusive. (50,000 white men in Arkansas would get the same test results.) The legal threshold is 100. At best the genetic fingerprint contained in the Starr report can only yield a paternity index of 120. The actual value depends on the mother's DNA.
So, what's the evidence before us?
1. We have the sudden revisiting, in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, of a 1992 tabloid story claiming Bill Clinton had an illegitimate son by a prostitute — a story that all but disappeared in 1999 after it was reported that DNA testing failed to establish that Clinton was the father.
2. We have two social media accounts in Danney Williams' name, neither more than a year old, describing him as "the son of the 42nd President of the United States — Bill Clinton."
3. We have a plethora of head shots purporting to show a family resemblance between Clinton and Williams.
4. We have a frenetic, 11th-hour effort by partisan web sites — including Drudge Report, which in 1999 concluded that it had been "debunked and flunked by science" — to peddle the Clinton love child narrative to voters.
Our verdict: Unproven.