June 17, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
NETROOTS: Pfeiffer suggests 1996 Obama statement supporting marriage equality a fake

MINNEAPOLIS — White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on Friday suggested President Obama’s stated support for same-sex marriage in a 1996 questionnaire response was fake, despite the signature from Obama attached to the statement.

“If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the president,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer made the remarks during a question-and-answer panel during the Netroots Nation convention in which Daily Kos’ Kaili Joy Gray inquired about the 1996 statement from Obama.

When he was running to become an Illinois state senator, Obama said in a questionnaire response to what is now the Windy City Times that he favors “legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

Obama has since said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, although he supports civil unions. Late last year, Obama suggested his position on same-sex marriage could “evolve,” but he hasn’t come out in support of marriage equality.

“It seems like his position has actually evolved from being more supportive of civil rights to less supportive,” Gray observed during Netroots Nation. “Is the president going to evolve again and get back to supporting civil rights on gay marriage?”

After Pfeiffer responded that the questionnaire was “filled out by someone else,” Gray asked him to clarify if he believes the response was “fake.”

Pfeiffer replied, “What I was going to tell you is the president’s position is being consistent on this.”

Pressed further on whether he believes the questionnaire response was phony, Pfeiffer said, “This was litigated in the campaign. There were a number of other issues on the campaign.”

Those in the audience during the question-and-answer session responded to Pfeiffer’s remarks on the 1996 statement on marriage with audible boos and gaps. Although Pfeiffer contends that the 1996 questionnaire response wasn’t filled out by the president, the statement submitted to the Windy City Times, then known as Outlines, has his signature on the document.

Pfeiffer later continued, “The president’s position on gay marriage — and I will say it — is that he has been against it, but he said the country has been evolving on this, and he is evolving on it.”

Pfeiffer added Obama has been evolving on the marriage because he “has friends, staffers who are in committed gay partnerships who are great people, great partners, great friends, great parents their children — and he is evolving on that.”

Additionally, Pfeiffer said he couldn’t say “when that evolution will continue,” but added there are “people in this room have pushed him on this, and he believes should continue to push him on it.”

UPDATE: In a statement issued following Pfeiffer’s remarks, Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim asserted that her newspaper stands by the reporting in 1996 on Obama’s questionnaire response.

“This is the first time a claim has been made that Obama did not complete the surveys himself, even though his signature is on the typed one sent to Outlines, and the IMPACT survey appears to be completed in his own writing,” the statement says.

According to the Windy City Times, the questionnaire response was faxed from the law firm for which Obama at the time. Additionally, Outlines newspaper subsequently reported that he backed gay marriage, something his campaign never denied in 1996.

“He would have had a very small campaign staff, so it was unlikely he had someone else complete the form,” the statement says. “In fact he went to the trouble of typing full answers when the form was actually able to be completed as a Q&A. Even if someone else completed the form, Obama signed it, and never denied subsequent reports of its content.”

UPDATE: The White House is backing off of the comments Pfeiffer made on Friday on Obama’s 1996 statement in support of same-sex marriage. Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, addressed the issue in a statement:

“Dan was not familiar with the history of the questionnaire that was brought up today, but the president’s views are clear,” Inouye said. “He has long supported equal rights and benefits for gay and lesbian couples and since taking office he has signed into law the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ signed into law the hate crimes bill, made the decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA and expanded federal benefits for same sex partners of federal employees.”

Inouye didn’t respond to a further question from the Washington Blade to verify whether the White House believes the president in fact filled out the questionnaire in 1996.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

6 Comments
  • 1996? Barry was a community organizer. He pimped himself to whoever would help him with his career political ladder. Jeremiah Wright, is that you? Bill Ayers, do I hear you? He would have supported Anthony Weiner for president that year if it would have got him votes…

    • No, I doubt it. Exactly how would Ayers or Wright help his career or get him votes? What you are hearing and repeating are right wing talking points, also known as lies.
      If you want to see someone pimp himself to vile un-American trash, look how many Republican president wannabes are actively courting Bryan Fischer. The American Family Association’s top radio personality. You know the guy, American Indians were made alcoholics by God for rejecting Evangelicalism, Hitler couldn’t fine heterosexuals vile and evil enough, so he surrounded him self with homosexuals because they are, only Evangelical Christians are covered by our constitution.
      Google AMA and Tim Pawlenty and educate your self.

      • I’m trying to figure out who’s worse, Bryan Fischer (as you claim), Jeremiah Wright (God Dammmmmn America and countless other vile trash spewed from the pulpit all wrapped up in his warped package of black liberation theology (about which Barry had to have known)) or Bill Ayers, a domestic terrorist who, to this day, should be locked up behind bars. Bottom line: Barry needed votes and name recognition in 1996, and he would have hooked his wagon to anything, regardless how despicable.

    • No, I doubt it. Exactly how would Ayers or Wright help his career or get him votes? What you are hearing and repeating are right wing talking points, also known as lies.
      If you want to see someone pimp himself to vile un-American trash, look how many Republican president wannabes are actively courting Bryan Fischer. The American Family Association’s top radio personality. You know the guy, American Indians were made alcoholics by God for rejecting Evangelicalism, Hitler couldn’t fine heterosexuals vile and evil enough, so he surrounded himself with homosexuals because they are, only Evangelical Christians are covered by our constitution.
      Google AMA and Tim Pawlenty and educate yourself.

  • Peter rosenstein

    I have spent many years working on campaigns and rarely does the candidate at any level fill out the forms for questionaires him/herself but they are often required to sign the form to verify the opinions are theirs. I would hope all candidates, everyone actually reads things before they sign them.

  • Was that the long from version questionnaire? ;-)

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