1979 Interview With Hillary Rodham Foreshadows Her Long Battle With Public Perception


There are no bombshells in this 1979 local television interview with then-First Lady of Arkansas Hillary then-Rodham, but it’s a strangely fascinating artifact in that much of what has characterized Clinton’s often ruffled relationship with the public and the media is on display here in nascent form.

Check out the video (disrupted by the occasional explosion of VHS distortion) below:

The interviewer probes Clinton with questions that evince a nebulous distrust she seems to have always inspired in some people.

“You don’t really fit the image we’ve created for the governor’s wife in Arkansas,” he says. “You’re not a native. You’ve been educated in liberal eastern universities. You’re less than 40. You don’t have any children. You don’t use your husband’s name. You practice law. Does it concern you that maybe other people feel that you don’t fit the image that we’ve created for the governor’s wife in Arkansas?”

The interview touches on some of the issues that have dogged her and her husband’s political careers for decades — particularly her need for privacy (which longtime Clinton reporter Jill Abramson recently described as Clinton’s greatest flaw.)

Her answers exhibit many of the characteristics that have endeared her to supporters — including a full-throated endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment and an unapologetic defense of her decision to maintain her legal career (and given name) rather than devote her attention to “state dinners and teas and garden parties,” as the interviewer put it.

Likewise, she demonstrates some of the traits that have repulsed her detractors, namely a seemingly preening need to establish authentic connections to all regions of the country, all issues, and all peoples. Watching the Illinois native exclaim her enthusiasm for her adopted state of Arkansas (“I cannot think of a better place to be living right now!”) foreshadows the similar song New York voters would hear some two decades later.

“A lot of people have images [of me] that are in no way related to reality,” Rodham (who is now Clinton) said (and is still saying).

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