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.