Recordings obtained by the conservative website Washington Free Beacon paint a very dark picture of how Hillary Clinton has come to accept and embrace LGBT rights.
It should be noted that this clearly negative report, published just prior to a key speech today by the Democratic front-runner in the crucial caucus state of Iowa, appears aimed at splitting LGBT support for Clinton, as she tries to distance herself from her pro-LGBT rivals, chiefly Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, and potential opponents such as Vice President Joe Biden.
Clinton's longtime friend Taylor Branch interviewed the former president several times in the 1990s for an oral history project. One recording in particular, from 1999, is raising eyebrows for its content. Bill Clinton is said to have used offensive phrases such as "the gay agenda," and to have made references to gays "acting out," which when viewed in a contemporary frame could be seen as damaging in terms of LGBT support.
While President Clinton kept the original copies of the recordings, Branch kept an audio diary and recorded his recollections after each interview.
According to Branch, as Hillary Clinton prepared to enter the New York U.S. Senate race, President Clinton worried that her positions on gay rights would hurt the campaign. After stopping the interview to take a call from his wife, the President returned with a candid assessment of how the issue could affect her campaign. Branch says in his recording:
“[Bill] came in and he said, ‘You know I’ve had much more contact in my life with gay people than Hillary has. He said, ‘I think she’s really a little put off by some of this stuff.’ [Bill] said, ‘Generally I support the gay agenda right down the line. He said [signing Don't Ask Don't Tell] was hard for me, and I’m sure there are still a few things that are hard for me to swallow.'"
Branch recounts President Clinton's worries about the upcoming New York Senate race and claims the president told him, "Hillary, emotionally speaking, still finds the issue harder to swallow than I do. And that it could be difficult for her in New York politics, how far she’ll be asked to go.”
Interestingtly, no mention is made in the report by the conservative news outlet, that one year later, Hillary Clinton spoke out against her husband's "don't ask don't tell" policy, as reported by The New York Times, and vowed to work to overturn it if elected to the senate.
In a 2004 Senate debate over marriage equality, Clinton argued against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but she also told her colleagues, “I believe that marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman." Until 2013, Clinton supported civil unions, but not marriage equality. After she changed her position, opponents and LGBT activists claimed she did so because of political pressure.
“I think you’re trying to say that, you know, I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons,” Clinton told NPR's Terry Gross in a contentious 2014 interview. “And that’s just flat wrong.”
As of press time, neither the Clinton campaign nor the foundation run by her husband have responded to the allegations. It should be noted that the audio does not contain any recordings of President Clinton speaking, only Branch's recollections from the interview after it was finished.
Listen to the audio from Branch's 1999 recording below.