By Maya Rhodan
February 10, 2015

What did the President believe and when did he believe it? That was the thrust of a tricky line of questioning on gay marriage for White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday.

The questions came after a new book by former political strategist David Axelrod revealed that President Obama misled the country about his true feelings on gay marriage during his 2008 campaign.

Earnest’s responses were a textbook case of the White House all but confirming a story without actually coming out and doing so.

MORE: Obama Adviser Says He Misled on Gay-Marriage Views

Instead of calling into question Axelrod’s accuracy, Earnest first praised him.

“I have not had an opportunity to read all 525 pages of Mr. Axelrod’s book,” he said. “The firsthand account that he provides in the book is not one that I would disagree with or quibble with. He obviously is sharing his views as he remembers them. Sometimes his perspective is informed by his up-close, front-row seat to history. That’s one of the reasons I’m interested in reading the book.”

Then he noted that voters had changed their views, too. (In 2008, 56% of Americans opposed it, while support was at 50% by the time Obama came out publicly in favor of it in 2012.)

“When the President made his first public comments regarding support for gay couples to marry, that was viewed as a pretty controversial political stance,” he said. “I think that’s an indication that the President was not the first person to articulate this position but certainly was at the beginning of a broader change we saw all across the country.”

And then he deflected the line of questioning by talking about Obama’s support for gay rights.

“That reflects the kind of record this President has amassed while in office when it comes to fighting for justice for all Americans including GLBT Americans,” he said. “From ending ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ to writing an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their employees regardless of who they love or for speaking out so boldly in support of gay marriage.”

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