AP, Situation Room note Allen attacks on 1979 Webb article against women in combat, but not Allen's current position on the issue

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

The Associated Press and CNN's The Situation Room reported on a press conference organized by Sen. George Allen, in which female Naval Academy graduates criticized challenger Jim Webb for a 1979 article in which Webb wrote, "There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat." However, neither outlet noted that Allen has also spoken against women serving in combat.

On the September 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider reported on a press conference held by the campaign of Sen. George R. Allen (R-VA), in which female Naval Academy graduates criticized Allen's Democratic challenger Jim Webb for a 1979 article. Webb wrote that "[t]here is a place for women in the military, but not in combat." A September 14 Associated Press article by Bob Lewis also noted that Allen had organized the press conference to draw attention to Webb's article arguing against "women serving in combat." However, neither report noted that Allen has also spoken against women serving in combat.

While not noting Allen's statements on the issue of women serving in combat, a September 14 Washington Post report on Webb's 1979 article did note that the Webb campaign responded by "accusing Allen of opposing the admission of women to the Virginia Military Institute" and that the Allen campaign asserted that "Democrats and Republicans had opposed coeducation at VMI before courts ordered the school to admit women."

Allen's stated opposition to women serving in combat has been documented:

  • A candidate guide published by the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot on November 3, 2000, reported:

Allen is insistent that women should not be involved in direct combat but said he ''would give a great deal of weight'' to the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and longtime students of the military like Sen. John W. Warner in considering whether men and women should train together.

  • On October 9, 2000, The Washington Post reported:

Paul Galanti, a retired Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam who ran U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign in Virginia ... said his frustration with [former Senator Chuck] Robb [D-VA] comes from his failure to resist changes in military culture, including the increasing frequency of women in combat roles and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that limits military officials from investigating homosexuals who are discreet.

[...]

Allen stopped short of backing Galanti's views on some military issues. He said the "don't ask, don't tell" policy "seems to be working relatively well." Allen said women should be kept out of some close-combat roles, but added that his priority is to use the federal budget surplus to increase spending on salary, benefits and weapon systems for the military.

Women "should not be in foxholes," Allen said. "The purpose of the armed services is not to be a social experiment."

  • The June 27, 1996, Washington Post reported:

Virtually the entire state leadership stood with VMI during its court battle, reflecting in part VMI's cherished position in Virginia. Gov. George Allen (R), Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D) and Attorney General James S. Gilmore III (R) all backed VMI's efforts to remain all-male, and yesterday each issued muted statements stressing the need to comply with the ruling in a way that does the least damage to VMI's tradition of producing "citizen-soldiers."

From the September 14 Associated Press article by Bob Lewis:

Five female Naval Academy graduates criticized Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, a decorated veteran and former secretary of the Navy, for a 1979 magazine article in which he objected to women serving in combat.

[...]

The women spoke at a news conference organized and paid for by Webb's Republican opponent, Sen. George Allen, in a race that polls show is about even.

The women said Webb's article, "Women Can't Fight," made almost intolerable the already edgy relationship between male midshipmen and female midshipmen, first admitted to military service academies in 1976.

Excerpts from the article, in large bold print, hung against a black drape behind a podium theatrically lit for a camera crew of the Republican media firm producing Allen's campaign ads.

In the article, Webb describes the horror of combat in Vietnam for the Marine infantry company he commanded and explains why he believes it was no place for a woman. He wrote that he had never met a woman, including those at the academy who would become Navy officers, "whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership."

[...]

In a statement released by Webb's campaign, he said he did not anticipate the widespread reaction to his article, "and to the extent that my writing subjected women at the Academy or the active Armed Forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry."

Webb said in the statement he wrote the article "during a time of great emotional debate over a wide array of social issues in this country, and the tone of this article was no exception." He said he is "completely comfortable" with women's roles in today's military.

From the September 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

SCHNEIDER: This week, the Allen campaign organized a news conference with five women graduates of the Naval Academy to protest an article written by Academy graduate Webb in 1979.

"There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat." Webb wrote. "I have never met a woman whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership."

The women claimed Webb's article fostered harassment and hostility at the military academy.

KATHLEEN MURRAY (retired Navy officer) [video clip]: There is no question that James Webb's attitudes and philosophy were major factors behind the unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women midshipmen.

SCHNEIDER: Webb's response? "To the extent that my writing subjected women at the academy or the active armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry," the candidate wrote.

[...]

BLITZER: Quickly, Bill, is Jim Webb now saying that women should be allowed to serve in combat? Has he changed his position on that substantive issue?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. In his statement, he said he has changed his views, that he's now comfortable with the idea of women going into a combat role. He has changed his view on that.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thank you very much. Bill Schneider reporting.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CNN, Associated Press
Person
Bill Schneider
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
2006 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.