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Tammy Wynette might “stand by her man,” but make no mistake that she could hold her own too.
Even with the First Lady of the United States.
Back in 1992, it had been 24 years since “Stand By Your Man” had been released and soared to the top of the country charts. But even when it was released in 1968 amidst a growing feminist movement, the song drew its fair share of criticism from those who claimed that the song suggested that it was a woman’s responsibility to stay with her man no matter how bad his behavior.
The criticism didn’t seem to hurt the song’s commercial performance though: It would go on to top the country charts while also crossing over to the pop charts, and eventually became not only Wynette’s signature song but one of the most well-known songs in country music history.
But the controversy surrounding the song stuck around, and resurfaced again thanks to a 1992 interview from Hillary Clinton.
It came during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. The then-governor of Arkansas was facing criticism after a woman named Gennifer Flowers came forward to claim that she had been engaged in an extra-marital affair with the presidential hopeful.
The allegations rocked the Clinton campaign and he began to drop in the polls. So he and his wife decided that it was time to do some damage control.
On January 26, 1992, immediately following Super Bowl XXVI between the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills, Clinton and his wife Hillary sat down with Steve Kroft for a primetime interview on 60 Minutes to address the allegations of Clinton’s affair.
Hillary Clinton was not yet the household name that she is today. And her appearance alongside her husband is largely credited with helping to stop the bleeding, turn around his campaign, and ultimately help him win the White House later that year.
But she also managed to piss off the First Lady of Country Music, Tammy Wynette.
During the interview, in which the Clintons didn’t directly deny the allegations that Bill had engaged in an extramarital affair with Flowers, Hillary invoked Wynette’s hit song in explaining why she was standing by her husband:
“I’m not sittin’ here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sittin’ here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together.
And you know, if that’s not enough for people then heck, don’t vote for him.”
The comment may have helped her husband win over voters. But it sure didn’t help Hillary win over Tammy Wynette.
Tammy, who was watching the interview with her husband Don Richey as it was airing, was so infuriated by Hillary’s comment that she wrote a letter to the future First Lady:
“With all that is in me I resent your caustic remark. I, with no apologies, am as angry as I can be with your statement. Mrs. Clinton, you have offended every woman and man who love that song – several million in number.
I believe you have offended every true country music fan and every person who has ‘made it on their own’ with no one to take them to a White House.”
And Wynette also offered to meet Hillary herself to let her know how she felt:
“I would like you to appear with me on any forum, including networks, cable or talk shows and stand toe to toe with me. I can assure you, in spite of your education, you will find me to be just as bright as yourself.
I will not stand by and allow you or any other person to embarrass, humiliate and degrade me on national television and print without hearing from me.”
For her part, Hillary would later apologize for offending Wynette, claiming that she was a “country and western fan” herself:
“I didn’t mean to hurt Tammy Wynette as a person. I happen to be a country-western fan. If she feels like I’ve hurt her feelings, I’m sorry about that.”
And it seems that the two were able to reconcile their differences: Wynette would later perform at a fundraiser for Clinton – at Hillary’s request.
I can only imagine Hillary’s reaction when she sang “Stand By Your Man.”