It’s the nose, really. The thin bridge and bulbous tip, the way it flares out suddenly at the nostrils. And the eyes, too, differing in color but conveying a similar spirit within their puffy pistachio shapes—playful and mischievous, as if laughing at a rumor that isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility.
For 24 years, on certain corners of the Internet and in the flimsy pages of certain supermarket tabloids, Bill Clinton and Danney Williams have been pictured side-by-side as proof of the conspiracy that they’re father and son.
Plausible enough, knowing what we know about ol’ Bubba.
As the de facto Republican nominee and fan of conspiracies of all stripes, it seems a safe bet that Donald Trump will go beyond the standard oppo research when making his case against Hillary Clinton, whom he’s likely to face in the general election. With this in mind, it’s worth revisiting the many tall tales about the Clinton’s—some of which ring true, even while lacking substantiating evidence—to see if there’s a there there.
Mostly, the mainstream media has ignored the maybe-story of Danney Williams—if we’re going by those papers, after all, Hillary’s adopted alien baby should be graduating from college.
But I wondered what would happen if I tried to report it out. Is the problem, as Clinton critics allege, that reporters don’t pay attention to stories like that of Danney Williams? Or is the problem people like Danney Williams?
The story, laid out in great detail in the anti-Clinton opus The Clintons’ War on Women, goes like this: Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, was out for a jog one day in 1984 in Little Rock when he met Bobbie Ann Williams (sometimes spelled Bobbi or Bobby), a 24-year-old prostitute, at a housing project. A few days later, Clinton jogged by again, but this time he solicited Williams for sex behind some bushes for $200.
Over the course of several months, they engaged in similar behavior more than a dozen times—mostly alone but also with additional female partners—often at Clinton’s mom’s house out in the country or at a downtown Little Rock Holiday Inn, where Clinton rented rooms under the name William Clay.
Eventually, Williams became pregnant. Her suspicion that Clinton was the father was confirmed when the baby was born on Dec. 7, 1985, white as could be. He had been the only white man she’d slept with the month the baby was conceived. She named her son Danney Lee Williams Jr., as a way to, perhaps perversely, honor her husband.
Not long after Danney was born, Bobbie went to prison, and her sister, Lucille Bolton, took care of him. It was Bolton who tried to force then-Governor Clinton to acknowledge his son, making trips to the governor’s mansion and trying, to no avail, to fight her way through the army of staffers that cocooned him therein.
Meanwhile, an activist and sweet potato pie barron in Little Rock was taking to the streets to spread the word about Clinton’s son. Robert “Say” McIntosh produced a flier that read, “The Hottest Thing Going: Bill Clinton’s Dick Will Keep Him From Running for President of the United States of America.” Ostensibly, he was trying to raise money for the boy, but he succeeded in raising eyebrows.
On Feb. 18, 1992, the tale went from hometown rumor to saucy national story when it was published by The Globe, the weekly tabloid. “When I told him that he was the father of my baby, he just laughed,” Williams told The Globe, according to The Clintons’ War On Women. “He rubbed my big belly and said, ‘Girl, that can’t be my baby.’ But I knew it was. I just had this kind of woman’s feeling that this was his child.”
The Globe claimed Williams and Bolton had taken lie detector tests and both had passed, a common tabloid refrain. But despite the cinematic appeal, the story quickly faded away. It’d be six years before it cropped back up again in the news, thanks to the Internet.
But in the meantime, what appeared like a fictionalized account of the saga made its way into Primary Colors, the 1996 book published anonymously by the journalist Joe Klein. In the book, a candidate much like Clinton fathers a child with the teenage daughter of a restaurant owner.
When I asked Klein if that had bit of fiction had been inspired by the real life rumor, he was taken aback. “Primary Colors was a novel. It wasn’t journalism. It was fiction,” he said. “The black love child—which turned out to be a false rumor in the book—was something I made up out of whole cloth. Never heard about the Clinton rumor you’re pursuing.”
In 1998, Bolton—the woman who raised Clinton’s alleged love child—started talking to Newsmax, the conservative website founded that year by Christopher Ruddy, a former New York Post reporter. Newsmax reported that George Stephanopoulos, the Clintons’ one-time communications director, had used threatening tactics to kill the story. When I asked Stephanopoulos about this in 2016, he referred me to a spokesperson for ABC, who asked me to provide the text of the Newsmax report. Neither Stephanopoulos or his spokesperson ever responded.
Bolton claimed to have talked to Hillary herself and she said she wanted Clinton to take a DNA test. In January 1999, the Drudge Report ran with the news that Star magazine, another tabloid, claimed it’d conducted one, using the analysis of Clinton’s DNA published by Kenneth Starr in the impeachment report and samples they’d taken from Danney, by then 13, and Bobbie.
“The story of Bobbie Ann Williams and her child Danney hit world media and rocked the White House this week after it was revealed that STAR MAGAZINE and ace investigative reporter Richard Gooding have exclusively signed Williams and his family to a paternity showdown,” Drudge said.
Jay Leno took the opportunity to needle Clinton in his monologue. “Allegedly there might be a 13-year-old Bill Clinton in Arkansas,” he said. “Well, we already have a 16-year-old Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.”
A few days later, several mainstream media outlets—the New York Daily News and The Mirror (U.K.), The Washington Times—cleared Clinton with headlines like “CLINTON NO JEFFERSON, LOVE CHILD NOT HIS” and “CLINTON IS NOT DAD OF HOOKER’S BOY, 13.” But those who believe the conspiracy weren’t put off, since, as Slate concluded at the time, it’d be impossible to determine if Clinton was Danney’s father based only on the “imprecise” data provided by the FBI and Starr.
Williams wouldn’t resurface again until 2013, when The Globe conducted another interview with him. Then 27, with a large crucifix tattooed on his bicep, the resemblance to Clinton was much as it had been when he was a toddler: easiest to see while squinting, and best from certain angles.
“I read he doesn’t have long to live and I want to meet him face to face before he dies,” Williams said. “I just want to shake his hand and say ‘Hi Dad,’ before he dies. I’d like to have a relationship with Chelsea, too. She’s my half-sister.”
On social media, he collected a few thousand followers. He called himself the #ClintonKid. He posted a video on YouTube, to “thank y’all for supporting me and following me—and I am real,” he said in a deep, sleepy voice, “and I am Danney Williams, thank you.”
Anti-Clinton activists were happy to engage, of course.
Some linked to StormFront, the premiere white pride website for people who can’t spell, where an article had been published, titled, “Clinton’s Fanaticism for Race-Mixing Linked to His Having a Black Son.”
Others were content to tweet about how Hillary had “banished” Danney from the governor’s mansion. On May 13, @TheSaintsWatch, a Donald Trump supporter, tweeted, “Did #HandCuffHillary discard Bill Clinton’s illegitimate black son? Who’s Danny Williams? …stay tuned folks. #MAGA”
Much of these flames have been stoked, naturally, by the authors of The Clintons’ War on Women, Roger Stone—a longtime Trump adviser—and Robert Morrow, a full-time conspiracy theorist.
In February, I sat down in Des Moines with Morrow, who admitted he had never met Danney, to talk about the story. “They made it up!” he said of Star magazine’s DNA test. “It’s Clinton-disinfo. It’s a planted story—a fake planted story. There was no DNA test. Prove it! Where? Danney don’t know about it. Star magazine didn’t know about. Stone talks to the current people who own those magazines [and] they say, ‘what are you talking about?’”
I began reaching out to Danney to arrange an interview. At the very least, I wanted to know what it was like to grow up in the tabloids, with those closest to you telling you you’re the illegitimate son of the leader of the free world. If nothing else it must make for interesting cocktail party fodder. But mostly, I wanted to see what would happen if I treated this like any other story rather than a carnival sideshow fit only for the supermarket checkout aisle.
On Facebook message, Danney asked for my contact information and said he’d reach out “soon.”
About a month went by, during which time Danney told me that his step-dad passed away. “It’s painful,” he said, “because he stepped up to be my father when my father chose to run. I won’t be available today to due to (sic) this unfortunate event.”
He never did call, though he provided the name of his attorney: George Gates. Every lawyer by that name who I reached, however, had never heard Danney’s name—though one of them was extremely amused.
Then, Danney agreed to provide Gates’s phone number—but this time Danney referred to him as “Gio Gates.”
“He serves as my media agent, so all media contact has to go through him,” Danney said.
Gates never returned multiple calls and voicemails.
I was able to establish, via public records, that Robert “Say” McIntosh, Bobbie Ann Williams, and Lucille Bolton do exist.
But calls to McIntosh’s sweet potato pie restaurant, Say McIntosh Restaurant on West 7th Street in Little Rock, went unanswered.
As did calls to every number listed for Williams and Bolton.
Thanks to video footage and an active social media life, it was at least clear that Danney, like he said on YouTube, is Danney Williams. The woman who answered the phone at his high school, McCellan Magnet in Little Rock, confirmed his attendance and even said she recalled hearing that Clinton’s kid went to the school. She couldn’t provide names of any of Danney’s teachers or classmates, however. She said it’d been too long.
The Arkansas Department of Health informed me that to view Danney’s birth certificate, I’d need to mail in his written consent. Danney didn’t reply when I asked if he’d provide that.
And that’s as far as I got. Danney Williams, as he says, is real. Everything past that remains in the rabbithole—the provenance of the supermarket tabloids and professional rumor peddlers.