Listen to Bill Clinton’s 1996 radio ad touting his passage of DOMA
In an effort to win votes from social conservatives during the 1996 presidential race, Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign ran a controversial radio ad that touted his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, his role in expanding the death penalty, and his support for a ban on late-term abortions with exceptions.
The ad was reported on extensively at the time and has been referenced in the years after in the context of Clinton’s position on same-sex marriage, but recordings of the spot had been seemingly lost to time — until now. CNN’s KFile has obtained partial audio of the radio ad.
The ad, which aired on Christian radio stations in several states, was a response to then-Republican nominee Bob Dole pointing the finger at Clinton for creating a “moral crisis” in the country.
In the audio provided by the Republican National Committee upon request from CNN’s KFile, a narrator says, “Don’t be misled by Bob Dole’s attack ads. President Clinton wants a complete ban on late term abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger or faces severe health risks, such as the inability to have another child. The president signed the Defense of Marriage Act, supports curfews and school uniforms to teach our children discipline.”
“The president enacted the V-chip to block out violent TV programs. His crime bill expanded the death penalty for drug kingpins. Bob Dole opposed him and is resorting to untrue negative attacks. President Clinton has fought for our values and America is better for it.”
While the ad shows just how far the Democratic Party as a whole has moved to the left on issues like same-sex marriage and criminal justice, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s past positions on these issues have proven to be a hurdle for Hillary Clinton as she makes her case to younger, more liberal voters — particularly among supporters of Bernie Sanders, many of whom view the Clintons as centrists who are willing to compromise progressive values to cut deals in Washington.
The ad, which was aimed at appealing to religious conservatives, was eventually pulled after blowback from LGBT groups. An official from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at the time called it “unsettling and offensive.”
“We’ve had a number of people expressing concerns about the ad, and we listened to those concerns,” Clinton’s campaign spokesman at the time, Don Foley, told the Washington Post.
Bill Clinton wrote an op-ed in 2013 for the Washington Post advocating for the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA.
Hillary Clinton actively campaigned in support of the 1994 crime bill referenced in the ad, and she did not come out in support of same-sex marriage until 2013 (she said she would have voted for DOMA when she ran for Senate in 2000).
When reached for comment, Clinton’s campaign pointed CNN’s KFile to her recent statements against LGBT discrimination and some of the tough on crime policies of the 1990s.
In Hillary Clinton’s first major policy speech as a presidential candidate in 2015, she called for an end to the “era of mass incarceration,” an era many trace back to the 1994 crime bill passed under Bill Clinton’s administration.
Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last year that her husband signed DOMA to prevent the passage of a constitutional amendment — a claim LGBT activists and those with knowledge of the bill’s passage have said is revisionist history. In a tense interview with NPR’s Terry Gross in 2014, Clinton said of her changing position on same-sex marriage, “I think I’m an American. I think that we have all evolved.” In an interview this July, Clinton said there was “no justifying” DOMA.