This piece has been updated.
From the start, the Hilltop’s story was a bit suspect. Its date stamp was Dec. 7, though it was pegged to a Nov. 1 event at the National Press Club. “My name is Danney Williams,” said Williams at the press conference. “As you can see, I’m the black son of former President Bill Clinton and stepson of Hillary Clinton . . . I have struggled all my life to get the acknowledgment of my father and stepmother. Because like any child, I want to know my dad and I want him to know me.” In front of the cameras, Williams disclosed that he’d sent a letter to Monica Lewinsky seeking to borrow her famous blue dress “in order to obtain a DNA sample of my father.”
The Hilltop’s story plowed somewhat uncritically through Williams’s presentation, though it did contain one important concession: “Some said the press conference was an effort to derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign, with the election being only a week away,” it read.
More information on Williams’s claims are readily found at InfoWars.com, a launching pad for far-fetched conspiracy theories. “BANISHED: BILL CLINTON’S ‘SON’ SPEAKS OUT, ASKS FOR DNA TEST,” is the headline of one such post. “HILLARY CLINTON HAD BILL’S MIXED RACE SON BANISHED” is another. InfoWars and other like-minded purveyors are famous for displaying side-by-side pictures of Williams and Clinton, the better to highlight the alleged resemblance. The Hilltop also presented this treatment, as showcased in the screen shot at the top of this post.
Rebuttal of the Danney Williams story line comes from many sources, including Snopes, which calls the claim “unproven.” Such as it is, the story is explained in this piece by the Daily Mail: Apparently Bill Clinton hooked up with a black prostitute while he was jogging by her housing project in 1984; they had sex “behind some bushes,” as the Daily Mail puts things. Conservative site Newsmax trumpeted the story in the late 1990s, though Matt Drudge in January 1999 exposed it as a fraud — only to hype it in the 2016 race. The tabloid Star even paid Williams and his mother for their blood samples, and compared the results to details on Bill Clinton’s DNA from the Starr Report. “There was no match. Not even close,” concluded the Star, according to Time magazine.
Perhaps a close look at the history of the claim persuaded the Hilltop to bail on the story. Paul Holston, editor in chief of the Hilltop, told the Erik Wemple Blog via email that “our staff re-reviewed and concluded that there were factual errors within the article. We take full responsibility in this and have promptly removed the article from our site. The Hilltop will respectfully decline any further comments regarding the topic.”
We responded with a question as to whether the publication considered publishing a retraction. No response yet.
Update: Holston has sent word that the article has been re-posted and now carries this note at the bottom:
Editor’s Note: The story above reflects the reporting of a contributing writer who attended the Danney Williams press conference at the National Press Club after receiving an inquiry about the event. For clarification, there is absolutely no proof or evidence that Williams is Bill Clinton’s son, as well as no proof or evidence that Williams has ever been financially supported by the Clintons. The Hilltop sincerely regrets this error in it’s reporting.