Friday, Jan. 09, 2009

Paula Jones

Then: She's the one who started it all. No, she didn't proposition anyone or commit adultery as a political figure, but she pointed the first finger of blame at the seated President Bill Clinton. With a formal lawsuit in May of 1994, Paula Jones accused the President of making a sexual advance toward her — which she rebuffed — while he was governor of Arkansas and she was a clerical worker in his administration. Although Gennifer Flowers had come forward during the 1992 Presidential campaign to allege a years-long sexual affair with him while he was governor, Jones' suit was the one that dragged out the President's demons. Clinton attempted to postpone the trial until after he was out of office, but history would not be so kind. Because the Jones case preceded the impeachment trials and included queries into the Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct as President, much of the testimony and evidence became a feeder to Ken Starr's impeachment case against the President. In 1998, Clinton agreed to settle and pay $700,000, but Jones wanted an apology. Eventually she accepted an $850,000 settlement, allowing the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal to take center stage.

Now: Still living in Arkansas, Jones remarried in 2001, becoming Paula Jones McFadden. She currently works as a real-estate agent. After legal fees she only saw about $150,000 of the settlement cash, so in 2000 she posed nude for Penthouse magazine to "secure" a future for her children. In 2002, she lost a Celebrity Boxing match to Tonya Harding, and earlier this year she attempted to sell audio recordings of her discussions with Gennifer Flowers about their encounters with Clinton over the Internet for $1.99 each. Nowadays, Jones tells TIME, she doesn't "want to make a career out of what happened with the scandal." Still, she'll be playing herself in a small-budget comedy, The Blue Dress, about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, coming out this fall. While Jones calls the recordings with Flowers "a mistake," she says the other events were just for fun. "I mean, why not?" she says. "It wasn't hurting me. It wasn't hurting my family. It wasn't something I was ashamed of."

Jones does have one regret about her role in the Clinton Impeachment saga, however. She claims she was used as a political pawn by conservatives out to get Clinton, charging that they pressured her to reject the first settlement offer. "I hate the fact that people thought it was political," Jones tells TIME. "It was their agenda to make it [seem] like I was trying to bring down the President. They let political views bog their mind of what really happened."