Yesterday we learned that Hillary Clinton gets upset with Russian homophobes. Today we learn she gets upset with journalists who ask about her evolution on marriage equality. In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Clinton got angry when Gross tried to pin down exactly how and why she changed her views on marriage equality.
Gross was asking a good, thoughtful question (as usual): did Clinton feel constrained to express her belief in marriage equality because of politics?
“Would you say your view evolved since the ’90s or that the American public evolved allowing you to state your real view?” Gross asked.
At first, the former Secretary of State tried to talk around the issue. “I think I’m an American. I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of,” Clinton replied.
Not content with that evasion, Gross pressed on: “I understand, but a lot of people believed in it already back in the ’90s. They supported gay marriage.”
“To be fair, Terry, not that many.” Clinton said. (True, although Obama was an early supporter. Before he wasn’t.)
Still not satisfied, Gross asked again if Clinton felt she couldn’t speak out earlier because of the political risk. That’s when Clinton erupted.
“I have to say, I think you are being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue,” Clinton said.
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand…” Gross said.
“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” a clearly irritated Clinton answered. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.”
Clinton defended her late-to-the-party status by noting, “Somebody is always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who join later, in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change, are any less committed.”
Also, not to tie Hillary too closely to her husband, but she was First Lady when Bill signed the Defense of Marriage Act. And in the interview, she basically said Bill supported DOMA because it would have been much worse if he hadn’t. “There was a very concerted effort in the Congress to make it even more difficult and greater discrimination and what DOMA did is at least allow the states to act,” Clinton argued.
Clinton is famously thin-skinned with the press, as today’s interview proves. But if she’s going to run for president, she’ll get a lot tougher questions than these.
Moreover, the fact remains that Clinton was well behind the curve on marriage equality. For someone who holds herself out as an ally and who will be aggressively courting gay voters, “you’re playing with my words” is not an adequate explanation.
Interestingly, the audio tape was circulated by America Rising, a Republican PAC that has made attacking Clinton its reason for existence. While the tape will certainly embarrass Clinton, here’s a question for America Rising: when did you finally endorse marriage equality?
If you answered never, you’re right.