Gillibrand 'Embarrassed,' 'Ashamed' by Previous Conservative Stances on Guns, Illegal Immigration

'60 Minutes' spotlights Dem senator's flip-flops

February 12, 2018

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) said in an interview aired Sunday that she is "embarrassed" and "ashamed" by her previous pro-gun position and tough stance on illegal immigration.

CBS's "60 Minutes" featured a 12-minute segment on Gillibrand in which interviewer Sharyn Alfonsi pressed the senator to explain why she reversed her position on several policy positions, particularly the Second Amendment and immigration.

Alfonsi noted that the National Rifle Association previously gave Gillibrand an "A" rating and that, as a congresswoman, she used a "family tradition of hunting to appeal to conservative voters in upstate New York." The New York Democrat is now one of the most vocal supporters of stricter gun control in the Senate.

"Why the 180?" Alfonsi asked.

Gillibrand, whose name has been floated as a 2020 presidential candidate, claimed her views changed after she entered the Senate and talked to victims of gun violence.

"After I got appointed, I went down to Brooklyn to meet with families who had suffered from gun violence in their communities," she said. "And you immediately experience the feeling that I couldn't have been more wrong. I only had the lens of upstate New York."

"But you had lived in New York City for a decade—" Alfonsi said before Gillibrand interrupted.

"I know, and that's why I was embarrassed," Gillibrand interjected. "I was wrong. What it's about is the power of the NRA and the greed of that industry. Let's be clear, it is not about hunters' rights. It's about money."

"Your critics will say it's political opportunism," Alfonsi pressed.

"As is their right, they can say what they like," Gillibrand said.

Alfonsi then moved on to the issue of illegal immigration, reporting that Gillibrand's issue has switched.

"Can you understand President Trump's position on immigration since you were there?" Alfonsi asked, noting that Gillibrand's stance on the issue used to be closer to that of Trump than her current view.

"No, I think his positions are racist," Gillibrand responded.

Alfonsi said that Gillibrand used to be against amnesty and sanctuary cities and supported accelerated deportations.

Gillibrand explained her previous views by saying that her former congressional district was 98 percent white.

"I came from a district that was 98 percent white. We have immigrants, but not a lot of immigrants," she said. "I hadn't really spent the time to hear those kind of stories about what's it like to worry that your dad could be taken away at any moment."

"But you're reading the paper," Alfonsi pressed.

"Yeah, and I didn't take the time to understand why these issues mattered because it wasn't right in front of me," Gillibrand responded. "And that was my fault. It was something that I'm embarrassed about and I'm ashamed of."