In fall 2000, America's First Lady sought elected office for the first time. Hoping to foil her campaign, little known right wing organization Christian Action Network
, Forest, Virg., aired this gay-baiting commercial questioning her sexuality.
With ominous music and drum beats, a narrator intones: "It is rumored that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian...It is rumored that Hillary Clinton supports homosexual marriage...It is rumored that Hillary Clinton will leave her husband upon taking office...It was rumored that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Sometimes rumors are true. Shouldn't you know the truth? For more information on traditional family values, please contact the Christian Action Network."
Ten-year old CAN, which claims 150,000 members, has been described as "the fringe of the fringe" among conservative groups, tried to air this commercial on New York City stations and during an appearance on the contentious Fox political program "Hannity & Colmes" in late September 2000. Despite the network’s reputation for having conservative politics, top Fox executives decided against even showing the commercial within the context of the program.
Conservative broadcasters who own UPN and WB stations in upstate New York said they would show it.
President and general manager, Anthony DiMarcantonio, of UPN affiliates WLOT and WBQZ in Watertown, N.Y., not far from Canada, was frustrated when Clinton and her Republican competitor Rick Lazio declined to place advertising on his small market stations. "Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio won't touch us, we're not corporately owned," he says. "She's spent no money with me and I have no loyalty to her. They're not even throwing us a bone."
DiMarcantonio sought out CAN after reading about its difficulty in airing the lesbian-baiting Clinton commercials. "I called them and said, 'I hear you've got some money to spend,'" says DiMarcantonio, who hasn't seen the spot that he intends to air. "It's not my job to interpret content or I'd be a censor." When the text was shared with him, DiMarcantonio says, "You know what they say about most rumors – they're facts waiting to be confirmed." Without a bit of irony, he adds, "Have you ever known a Christian to lie, besides maybe Jim Baker?"
DiMarcantonio says he has broadcasting buddies in the capital city of Albany, northern Plattsburgh and elsewhere who feel the same way and may also carry the ad.
"These are questions voters should be informed about," Philip Vaught, media director for CAN, explains about the commercial's message. "The CNN/Time exit poll now always asks voters the question, 'Are you gay/lesbian or bisexual?' If it's such a standard question, it's appropriate to ask a person running for U.S. Senate too."
The organization, which provided its commercial to reporters as well as to stations it hoped would air the commercial, says it wasn't surprised when New York City stations declined the ad as "inappropriate."
In 1992, another TV spot from CAN, "Clinton's Vision for a Better America" aired over 250 times in 24 major cities across the country along with newspaper advertisements, in which CAN condemned Clinton for supporting "radical homosexual rights." The ads were interspersed with pictures of young men wearing chains and leather marching in a Gay Pride parade. The ad concluded by asking, "Is this your vision for a better America?"
The group, which failed to register as a political action committee, led to a Democratic complaint with the Federal Election Committee, or FEC, which said CAN was violating campaign laws. Following a government investigation, the FEC sued CAN in federal court in October 1994. However, the FEC lost the case against the group.