“I am so proud to be my parents’ daughter.”
That’s how Chelsea Clinton, straight-faced, answered conspiracy theorist Robert Morrow when he confronted her during a book signing last week in Austin, Texas. His question: “Has your mother ever told you that you’re the daughter of Webb Hubbell and not Bill Clinton?”
Chelsea’s surprisingly calm dispensing of Morrow belies the fact that she is the first child with the most conspiracy theories about her (unless, of course, you count the ones former first kid George W. Bush accrued during his presidency).
Morrow has long peddled the tall tale of Hillary confidant and former Little Rock Mayor Webb Hubbell fathering Chelsea. Many political journalists can attest to having received a blaring email from the right-wing author claiming the Clintons forced Chelsea to undergo plastic surgery to hide her “gummy lower lip” and “weak chin” resembling Hubbell’s.
Other rumormongers take it a step further, suggesting that former White House counsel Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993, was murdered by the Clintons because he knew about Hubbell fathering Chelsea.
In 1999, the Drudge Report alleged that Chelsea—who serves on the board of Daily Beast parent company IAC—may have a black half-brother named Danny Williams, who was conceived during Bill’s cocaine bender with an Arkansas prostitute. The conservative news aggregator published the videotaped confessions of Bobbie Ann Williams, and side-by-side images comparing the faces of the 13-year-old boy and Clinton were circulated online. DNA testing eventually proved otherwise, but as with most conspiracy theories, the story has lingered on the Internet years after it was debunked (largely thanks to none other than Robert Morrow).
Another long-running conspiracy about Chelsea holds that she is indeed Bill’s daughter—but was conceived during a rape. Anti-Clinton author Ed Klein, loathed even by many on the right, first pushed the rumor in his 2005 book, The Truth About Hillary, based on an anonymous source who was “with the Clintons” during a 1979 vacation to Bermuda.
“I’m going back to my cottage to rape my wife,” Klein alleged the future president said on that trip. The author later walked back that explosive claim (only slightly), at one point suggesting that maybe his source simply misheard a joke.
Klein is not just some basement-dwelling conspiracy monger without a platform. He’s a writer for the New York Post and a frequent guest on Fox News. And Morrow recently partnered with former Donald Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone for a book full of supposed revelations about rape, abuse, and drug use. (Incidentally, Stone described the book as being “Ed Klein on steroids.”)
These conspiracy theories, and many more, will undoubtedly resurface during the 2016 campaign. And if Hillary wins the presidency, Chelsea will have another four (or eight) years to fend off conspiracy theorists in public.