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"Why I Refused to Testify Against the Clintons & What I Learned in Jail": An Interview with Susan Mcdougal

StoryJanuary 24, 2003
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Susan McDougal, grew up in a small Arkansas town, one of seven children of a US army sergeant and his Belgian bride. In her teens, she made patriotic speeches at her local American Legion hall. In 1976, she married Jim McDougal, a mercurial entrepreneur, who soon turned their life into a rolling sideshow of bank acquisitions and real estate deals including one fatefully dubbed Whitewater. She was imprisoned after refusing to testify against the Clintons during the Whitewater trial.

A recent article in the Washington Post discussed the case of Susan McDougal.

“It will forever be the question people ask her. Why? Why didn’t Susan McDougal just answer the questions? Why on earth would anyone choose to spend two years in jail, when all it took to be free was to provide a few simple, incriminating sentences?

“The offer was there: The Office of the Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr, would give her immunity from any charges related to the failed 1980s Whitewater real-estate venture, in which she and her husband, Jim McDougal, were business partners with President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, if only she would connect the Clintons to the deal.

"She said no. And she went to jail. The pictures are hard to forget: McDougal on the day she went to prison, a woman in chains, taken away wearing black stockings. She served the maximum 18 months for civil contempt of court for her refusal to testify, and three and a half months of a two-year term for fraud in a 1996 Whitewater case brought by Starr’s office. Her husband, also convicted of fraud, cooperated with the Starr investigation. He died of a heart attack while in prison."

Today we talk to McDougal about her new book " The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk" and about her experiences in seven different prisons during her eighteen month incarceration.


  • Susan McDougal, she grew up in a small Arkansas town and became a househouse name when she was jailed after refusing to testify against the Clintons in the Whitewater. She still lives in Arkansas and recently published a new memoir, "The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Refused to Testify Against the Clintons & What I Learned in Jail."

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