Hillary Clinton had a contentious exchange Thursday over the timing of her public support for gay marriage, accusing a reporter of “playing with my words” and ascribing political motives to her announcement.
“I think you are trying to say that, you know, I used to be opposed, and now I’m in favor, and I did it for political reasons,” she told NPR reporter Terry Gross during an interview. “And that’s just flat wrong.”
The former secretary of state did not publicly support gay marriage until after she left the Obama administration in March 2013 – after Vice President Joe Biden and, subsequently, President Barack Obama stated their backing for it.
In the interview, which was recorded and disseminated by Republican group America Rising, Gross asked Clinton several times whether she had privately supported gay marriage before her 2013 announcement or whether her opinion on the subject changed at that time.
“I think you are being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue,” Clinton responded.
The likely 2016 presidential candidate was audibly annoyed at the line of questioning, adding: “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.”
“I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage, and I don’t think you did either,” she said of her eventual embrace of the policy.
When Gross noted that activists were vocal about the issue when Clinton’s husband, then-president Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, Clinton shot back.
“To be fair Terry, not that many,” she replied.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of the public said they supported gay marriage in 1996, the earliest date for which the data is available. In 2014, that share is up to 54 percent.
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for Democratic group Correct the Record, provided the following response:
"We know many Americans have matured on this issue, and our country is in a better place for it. As a Senator and as Secretary of State, Clinton's record on LGBT rights is strong. We regret the right's attempt to demonize her for speaking honestly about her journey, a journey so many people have taken."
First published June 12 2014, 12:40 PM