As former President Bill Clinton made history Tuesday night by becoming the first man to endorse his wife for U.S. president at a major party’s convention, Americans across the nation began to wonder: What will he be called if Hillary Clinton wins the White House?
That was the question that spiked on search engines as Bill Clinton delivered a speech about his wife at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. While there has never been a male presidential spouse in the United States, the formal title for the role of a husband of a state governor is “first gentleman,” which became a trending hashtag on social media during Bill Clinton’s speech.
But it may not be so simple for Bill Clinton if he becomes America’s first “first gentleman,” since he’s also a former president. Hillary Clinton has addressed this several times on the campaign trail.
“He said the other day that it was fine for all this talk about me running to break the big hard glass ceiling and become president. But he was running to break the iron grip that woman had had on being spouse of the president. And so I think part of what we’ll have to figure out is what do you call the male spouse of a female president,” she said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last November. “Now, it's a little bit more complicated with him because people still call former presidents Mr. President. So I have to really work on this.”
She pondered: “First dude, first mate, first gentleman, I'm just not sure."
At a town hall meeting in January in Sioux City, Iowa, a member of the audience stood out to Hillary Clinton.
“I got to call on you,” she said, pointing to the young man. “He has a T-shirt that says, ‘Bill Clinton for First Lady.’”
The former first lady and secretary of state then added: “You know, I’m sort of more partial to First Mate or First Dude.”
But most recently, it seems Hillary Clinton has settled on calling Bill Clinton “first gentleman.”
“I’ve already told my husband that if I’m so fortunate enough to be president and he will be the first gentleman, I expect him to go to work to make sure we get those jobs growing and incomes rising,” she said at a campaign event in May in Paducah, Kentucky, ahead of the state’s primary.
While Hillary Clinton likes “first gentleman” (or jokes about “first dude”), Bill Clinton usually doesn’t speculate on what he will be called if he’s back in the White House. But the former president has emphasized the historical significance of being the first male presidential spouse.
The first time Bill Clinton ever mentioned it on the campaign trail was at the Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner last October in Des Moines, Iowa.
“There's been a lot of talk about breaking the glass ceiling, and I want to talk about one barrier that has not been broken,” he said. “I want you to support Hillary for me, too, because I want to break a ceiling. I am tired of the stranglehold that women have had on the job of presidential spouse.”
And most recently, Bill Clinton said he looks forward to the possibility of being the nation’s first “first gentleman” at a campaign event in June in Inglewood, California. Though, FGOTUS, the acronym for the title, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like FLOTUS.
“I think it would be a good thing to have a first woman president,” he said to cheers from the small yet enthusiastic crowd.
The former president then recognized a man in the audience wearing a “Bill Clinton for First Lady” T-shirt.
“Nothing would make me happier than to wear that shirt. Heck, I’ve made enough decisions in my life; I want to be told what to do. It’s great,” Bill Clinton said.
And while their titles and roles will swap if Hillary Clinton takes the White House in November, the Democratic presidential nominee has made clear she won’t be letting Bill Clinton pick out the table settings.
"With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that,” Hillary Clinton said in the ABC News Democratic debate in December. “But I will certainly turn to him, as prior presidents have, for special missions for advice.”
ABC News’ Liz Kreutz and Matthew Claiborne contributed to this report.