Twitter augments the snarkier side of almost everyone’s personality, but the gulf between Broaddrick’s social-media persona and her actual one is especially wide. In the days after Broaddrick denigrated E. Jean Carroll, the woman who accused Trump of rape in her new book, tweeting that she looked like the Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, I called her to request an interview. To hear Broaddrick’s genial, alto drawl was jarring, as was the contrast between the vitriolic @atensnut (Broaddrick is a huge tennis fan) and the woman who later greeted me with a bear hug when we met in the lobby of a Days Inn near her home. I’d mentioned on the phone that I’d forgotten my toothbrush, and, though it was a Sunday morning, she’d come over to transport me to the nearest drugstore. She hadn’t been planning on church that day anyway, she assured me. Even the story of how she’d launched her Twitter activism—her grandson had helped; she’d barely known how the thing worked—was endearing.
Toothbrush secured, Broaddrick took me on a tour of the place where she’s spent almost her whole life, Fort Smith and neighboring Van Buren. Fort Smith has the second-largest population in the state, after Little Rock, though it’s by no means a metropolis. The downtown’s stately, wide boulevards and meticulously preserved antebellum architecture are its main selling points. The city is so quintessentially old South that it served as a location for The Blue and the Gray, a 1980s miniseries about the Civil War starring Stacy Keach.
Most interesting were Broaddrick’s personal landmarks. She pointed out the spot where her parents—both white southerners, despite what her first name might suggest—used to own a dry cleaner. The place where a tomboyish Juanita broke her arm at 8 years old while visiting a classmate’s horse farm (now a Walmart—welcome to Arkansas). The movie theater where 4-year-old Juanita and her 6-year-old sister, Patsy, would take the bus to watch spaghetti Westerns while their parents spent 12-hour days pressing suits—life was different back then, or her mother and father were really irresponsible; she’s undecided. The sprawling 40-acre property where she’d lived with her second husband, a cowboy who lassoed cattle in their backyard, and then by herself after the two divorced in 2003. (She downsized only last year, moving to a two-bedroom condo in a nearby gated community.) The law offices of her only child, Kevin, whom she adopted when he was two days old. The high school where she attends every home football game to watch Kevin’s boy, her 16-year-old grandson, play fullback.
Broaddrick was most animated, however, when we stopped at a nursing home she’d run that had won awards for outstanding patient care and at a facility for children with severe disabilities she’d owned and operated before retiring in 2008. In fact, she said, the whole reason she met Bill Clinton on the day of the alleged attack was to ask for his help in procuring more funds for needy long-term-care patients.