NPR star Terry Gross has been an aggressive defender of Hillary Clinton on her Fresh Air show on the taxpayer-funded airwaves. So it was a bit shocking to witness her pressing and pounding the former First Lady and Secretary of State for her shifting stands on gay issues in the second half of the 44-minute interview.
Buzzfeed’s LGBT-beat reporter Chris Geidner counted ten times Gross whacked at Hillary. ABC, CBS, and NBC skipped this fracas tonight, but NPR in a Thursday night news break replayed Hillary snapping at Gross as being insincere and hostile (audio below):
CLINTON: You know I really, I have to say, I think you being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.
GROSS: I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand.
CLINTON: No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. 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.
Later, Mrs. Clinton pushed Gross around some more: “I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don’t think you did either. This was an incredible new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay right movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others about the rightness of that position. When I was ready to say what I said, I said it.”
So.....Hillary wasn’t being political, just being very slow to be “ready to say what I said.” The fight began by Gross suggesting Hillary's evolution was politically timed and calculated. Hillary responded by bashing the Bible-thumpers who "believe they have a direct line to the Divine" and "operate in an evidence-free zone."
GROSS: 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. 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.
CLINTON: I think you’re reading it very wrong. 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.
...As Secretary of State, I was out of domestic politics and I was certainly doing all I could on the international scene to raise the importance of the human rights of the LGBT community. And then leaving that position, I was able to very quickly announce that I was fully in support of gay marriage and that it is now continuing to proceed state-by-state. I am very hopeful that we will make progress and see even more change and acceptance. One of my big problems right now is that too many people believe they have a direct line to the Divine and they never want to change their mind about anything.They’re never open about new information and they like to operate in an evidence-free zone. I think it’s good if people continue to change.
Gross began the LGBT segment of the interivew a more typical approach, lauding Mrs. Clinton for being a pioneer for leftist transgender activists:
GROSS: I want to move on to LGBT rights, which was very important to you as secretary of state. You made it one of your priorities. In fact, you gave a speech at the headquarters of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva with the goal to place LGBT rights in the international community's framework of human rights. In that speech, you said, (reading) like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
I found it very interesting that you decided to not limit what you were saying to gay rights but to include transgender people. There are parts of the world that are still imprisoning or even executing people for being gay. Being transgender is probably, like, way off the map for them. Was it difficult to decide to include transgender, which would strike some people as being more radical than including - than just including gay and bisexual people?
CLINTON: Well, LGBT includes the T, and I wanted to stand up for the entire community. I don't believe that people who are the L, the G, the B or the T should be persecuted, assaulted, imprisoned, even killed for who they are. And this was the debate that I was having with leaders in many parts of the world who first denied there were any such people in their communities, that it was all an invention and export of the West and then would change the argument to they didn't want people being proselytized. They didn't want children being abused.
And I said well, there are laws against that that are certainly appropriate. No one should be coerced. No one should be abused. But you're talking about the status, the, you know - the very core of who a person is. And it has become, and I think will continue to be, a very important issue for the United States to combat around the world and to stand up for the rights of all people. And as I said, not just women, religious, ethnic, tribal - all people, including the LGBT community.
GROSS: You added gender identity to the State Department's Equal Employment Opportunity policy, and you made it easier for Americans to change their sex on their passport. Did you have to sneak that in without a lot of attention?
I can - I mean, I didn't know you'd done that. But I have a feeling, if a lot of people had known you'd done that, you would've gotten a lot of pushback for that. I mean, 'cause there's still a lot of people in our country who oppose gay rights and would probably even more so oppose, like, any recognition of the transgender community. So did you do that on (laughing) the quiet?
CLINTON: Well, I don't know how quiet it was. Even before I did that, I spoke to the LGBT employees at the State Department. I was aware of their hopes for some changes that might make it easier for them to be the professionals that they had signed up to be. And I don't think it was any big secret. I think it was part of the overall efforts to try to treat people with dignity and equality.
Gross tried to put the interview back in the comfort zone as she wrapped up, by going after conservative dirt-diggers and how she avoided them by doing to the State Department:
GROSS: Trying to find dirt on you is nearly a national pastime for your opponents. It's like one of their favorite sports. Like...
CLINTON: (Laughing) Yeah.
GROSS: Isn't it a relief to try to step away from that?
CLINTON: It is, and I'm very glad that I have.