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Right Wing Blogs Explode After Gay Troops Ban Discussed on CNN/YouTube Debate

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Nov 29, 2007

Last night's CNN/YouTube debate was two hours of Republican candidates addressing Iraq, immigration, and other questions. But the final few minutes have the blogosphere in an uproar.

The candidates were asked a range of questions by CNN reporter and debate moderator Anderson Cooper and by people who appeared via video to pose queries. However, the last questions of the two-hour event have grabbed the attention of the media at large and of the blogosphere: Anderson Cooper put the question out as to whether the candidates in attendance would repeal the military ban on openly gay servicemembers, and retired brigadier general Keith Kerr asked via video why the Republican candidates seemed to believe that American troops "are not professional enough" to work with openly gay colleagues.

Kerr, who served in uniform for 43 years, came out as a gay man after his retirement, introduced himself and gave a rundown of his service, saying, "I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I'm an openly gay man."

Kerr then posed his question for the Republican candidates, saying, "I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians."

Kerr's question came near the end of the debate, and received an answer from Rep. Duncan Hunter of Calif., who thanked Kerr for his service, but said that he wished to see the ban upheld.

"And the reason for that," said Hunter, "even though people point to the Israelis and point to the Brits and point to other people as having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military, make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives, and they have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values."

Continued Hunter, "And to force those people to work in a small, tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual, who goes against what they believe to be their principles--and it is their principles--is I think a disservice to them. And I agree with Colin Powell that it would be bad for unit cohesion."

Cooper then asked Mike Huckabee for his opinion, and Huckabee answered, "The Uniform Code of Military Justice is probably the best rule, and it has to do with conduct."

Added Huckabee, "People have a right to have whatever feelings, whatever attitudes they wish, but when their conduct could put at risk the morale, or put at risk even the cohesion that Duncan Hunter spoke of, I think that's what is at issue. And that's why our policy is what it is."

The right-wing blogsphere exploded with the news that Kerr has reportedly served with the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In part, the revelation came from CNN.com (link: politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2007/11/28/gay-war-vet-presses-candidate-on-gays-in-the-military/), which posted an update to the online news item about Kerr's question. The update read, "CNN later learned that retired brigadier general Keith Kerr served on Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender steering committee."

The update went on to say that the debate's executive producers, CNN senior Vice President David Bohrman, had issued an apology of sorts, saying, "We regret this incident."

Bohrman went on to say, "CNN would not have used the General's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate," according to the CNN posting's update.

However, the National Review Online (link: http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZmZlMzQ5NzVjYjc1NzlkMjc3OGRjNjU3MmQ1MmIzMzc= ) posted a news item in which it reported that Kerr denied having done any work for the Clinton campaign. According to the National Review article, Kerr acknowledged being a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, which is composed of GLBT conservatives, but said that he did not participate in the debate as a representative of Clinton or anyone else, except for himself.

After Kerr's question and comments from other candidates, an exchange between Cooper and former governor of Mass. Mitt Romney took place. Romney has received scrutiny for an apparent reversal of many of his earlier political beliefs, including his views on abortion and gay equality; it was on Romney's watch that gay marriage became legal for the first time in the United States when Mass. extended full marriage equality to gay and lesbian families in the spring of 2004.

As reported today by Queerty.com (link: www.queerty.com/news/gop-gabs-about-telling-20071129/#comments ), Cooper asked Romney to explain his evident flip-flop on the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," reminding the candidate that during a congressional race in the 1990s, "You said... that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, 'openly and honestly in our nation's military.'"

Asked Cooper, "Do you stand by that?"

Romney explained that when the policy was first introduced, "I didn't think that would work."

Said Romney, "I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. I said, 'That doesn't make any sense to me.'"

When Cooper pressed for an answer to the question of whether Romney still looked forward to a time when gay troops could serve without having to hide their identities, Romney ducked the question.

Said Romney, "I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support [for] our troops, and I [will] listen to what they have to say."

But Romney's non-reply to Cooper's question was overshadowed in the blogosphere by social conservatives wondering why the Republican candidates had not demanded an apology from CNN and theorizing that Cooper, who is rumored to be gay and closeted, had allowed the general's video on the program as a "plant" from the Clinton campaign.

The candidates' responses on taxes, Iraq, and immigration were completely swept aside in the torrent, as everyone from Fox News to freerepublic.com (link: www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1932193/posts ) pounced on the reported link between Kerr and Clinton.

The commentary section to online reports were abuzz with comment postings. At freerepublic.com. for example, the conversation that followed a posting by "InfantryMarine" about the "planting" of Kerr's video veered between reports that Anderson Cooper had been named the No. 2 most influential gay man in America, remarks that "Gay men are all about number 2," a rumor that Annie Leibowitz was gay and that her sister had died in a kiln explosion, and anger at the field of Republican candidates.

Posted "peteram," "Earlier this year, DemonRATS issued a statement that they would never hold a debate on Fox News because they feel the network would not treat them fairly."

Continued "peteram," "Well, the left has once again demonstrated what it's like to not treat people fairly. It's sad and funny how they accuse us of planning to [do] the very things that they themselves always do."

Agreed "MHT," "Amen-if the Dems can reject Fox on 'principle', the Republicans should reject CNN from experience."

Continued "MHT," "CNN was given more of a chance by the Reps than Fox, and what a mistake."

Wondered "gathersnomoss," "Will Republicans DEMAND an apology? If they do not get one, will the Republicans show up at CNN again, with their tails between their legs?"

"Gathersnomoss" continued, "What a weak bunch. Where is the integrity of the Republicans?"

In a follow-up post, "gathersnomoss" added, "Americans want leaders, not panderers!"

The Washington Blade (link: www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=15426 ) posted a story last night after the live airing of the debate on CNN, pointing out that this was the second debate to be produced jointly by YouTube and CNN. In July, reported the Blade, Democratic candidates also participated in such a forum.

The Blade reported that when Cooper asked Kerr via video feed whether he felt he'd gotten a satisfactory answer from the candidates, Kerr responded, "With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates."

Continued Kerr, "American men and woman in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians."

Kerr spoke to a mixture of applause and booing as he responded to Cooper's question, and went on to say that it was his opinion that the ban has been "destructive to our military policy," given that an average of two troops are discharged each day "simply because they happen to be gay."

The Blade also noted in its article that n excess of 12,000 American troops have been discharged under the ban on openly gay servicemembers, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $364 million since the start of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 1993.

The Blade article also noted that Democratic candidates have been in favor of ending the ban.

Asked to reply to Kerr, Ariz. Sen. John McCain weighed in, citing "our military leaders, beginning with our joint chiefs of staff and the leaders in the field, such as General Petraeus and General Odierno and others who are designated leaders with the responsibility of the safety of the men and women under their command and their security and protect them as best they can."

Said McCain, "Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history, that we have the bravest, most professional, best prepared, and that this policy ought to be continued because it's working."

Perhaps the most succinct reaction to the entire brouhaha was provided by one of the freerepublic comment posters, "BallyBill."

Wrote "BallyBill," "This is 'so gay'."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • , 2007-11-29 21:48:28

    Am I missing something? Is this not a legitimate question? Who cares who asked it?


  • , 2007-11-30 03:01:03

    The issue is not the question. The issue is that this person was flown in to the debate and allowed to practically LECTURE the candidates and the nation about gays in the military after the candidates had responded. THAT is the issue.


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