January 5, 2017

NPR Host: America Rising Made Clinton’s Gay Marriage Stumble Go “Viral”

Throughout Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, the belief that she was untrustworthy and evasive on her real beliefs persistently hampered her campaign, especially with liberals. Yet before Clinton even announced, that trouble was already apparent to those who thought to look.

America Rising was one of the earliest to hone in on this, when we highlighted a painful back and forth between Clinton and NPR’s Terry Gross on gay marriage all the way back in June 2014. In the exchange Clinton was clearly rattled when confronted with her seemingly political approach to gay marriage by the NPR host.

Now looking back, the speed with which Gross’ exchange with Clinton took over the political conversation apparently surprised even Gross herself. In an interview on the Longform podcast, Gross talks about how America Rising was responsible for the clip going viral, before the interview was even up on their website:

TERRY GROSS: “Well here was the revelation to me. That went viral before it was even up on our website. So how did that happen? I think I know how that happened. And this to me is the most amazing part of the interview. I’m pretty sure it’s a group called America Rising that was responsible for making that viral. This is a group that, I read about this in The Atlantic magazine, after the interview, like long after the interview. So America Rising is a group, a right wing group, that I think was founded by Romney’s campaign manager from 2012, Matt Rhoades. And so the group, the way I understand it from reading about it, one of their goals was to defeat Hillary, and to follow her around on the book tour and take information and sound bytes and quotes from credible mainstream sources and use it against her. So I think through that group, and I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure of it, through that group, that excerpt was put up on a site and it started going viral. And it was just because people follow everything Hillary so carefully, and because every word she says is put under a microscope, and because at this time every word was being analyzed does this mean she’s ready for primetime or not? Does this mean she’s going to run or not? What clues does this give us about what kind of candidate she’ll be, everybody was examining that, like so what does it mean. Now I thought it went viral maybe because gay people felt like, ‘well what does this say about her position on gay rights?’ But, if my understanding of how it went viral is correct, it went viral because people on the right were trying to use something that would alienate liberals against her, would alienate gay people against her. And I think that’s kind of really fascinating political jujitsu, that helps me understand why politicians like Hillary Clinton aren’t necessarily terribly forthcoming in an interview.”

In her comments, Gross also touched upon an early America Rising strategy of using Clinton’s words against her with liberals, calling it “really fascinating political jujitsu.” Yet as seen in a New York Times article from 2015, this was always a central strategic goal of America Rising:

“’The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left,’ said Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director. ‘We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.’”

As the sustained antipathy many Bernie Sanders supporters had for Clinton up through Election Day, this was clearly mission accomplished.