Former secretary of state and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got more than she bargained for during an NPR radio interview on Thursday, becoming angry after being repeatedly asked whether her “evolution” on gay marriage was driven by politics and not a passion for equality.
Clinton spoke with NPR host Terry Gross as part of her tour promoting her new book “Hard Choices.” But it quickly turned into a hard interview after Gross repeatedly pressed Clinton on her shift from opposing gay marriage as first lady in the 1990s to embracing it as the probable Democratic nominee in 2016.
“So what’s it like when you’re in office and you have to do all these political calculations to not be able to support something like gay marriage, that you actually believe in?” Gross asked. “Obviously you feel very committed to human rights and you obviously put gay rights as part of human rights but in doing the calculus you decided you couldn’t support it. Correct me if I’m reading it wrong.”
The interview was first publicized by the pro-Republican America Rising PAC.
LISTEN (via America Rising):
“I think you’re reading it very wrong,” Hillary began, amiably at first. “I think that, as I said – just as the President has said – just because you’re a politician doesn’t mean you’re not a thinking human being. You gather information, you think through positions, you’re not one hundred percent set, thank goodness, you’re constantly re-evaluating where you stand. That is true for me.”
But Gross continued. “So, just to clarify, just one more question on this,” she asked. “Would you say your view evolved since the 90s or that the American public evolved allowing you to state your real view?”
“I think I’m an American,” Hillary replied. “I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”
“I understand,” Gross continued, “but a lot of people believed in it already back in the nineties. They supported gay marriage.”
“To be fair, Terry, not that many,” Hillary shot back, a hint of annoyance creeping into her voice. ”Were there activists who were ahead of their time? Well that was true in every human rights and civil rights movement. But the vast majority of Americans, were just waking up to this issue, and beginning to think about it, and grasp it for the first time.”
Gross wouldn’t let up. “So you’re saying your opinion on gay marriage changed,” she asked skeptically.
“You know, somebody is always first, Terry,” Clinton said, now more than a little miffed. “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.”
“So that’s one for you changed your mind?” Gross pushed.
Hillary had had enough. “You know I really, I have to say,” she said testily, “I think you’re being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.”
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand –”
“No, you’re not trying to clarify,” Clinton pushed back angrily. “I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favor and I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like I think 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 were making.”
Gross was apologetic but pressed on regardless. “You know I’m just saying, I’m sorry – I just want to clarify what I was saying,” she said. “No, I was saying that you maybe really believed this all along, but, you know believed in gay marriage all along, but felt for political reasons America wasn’t ready yet and you couldn’t say it. That’s what I was thinking.”
“No, that is not true,” Clinton asserted, adding that she “did not grow up even imagining gay marriage, and I don’t think you did either.”