UPDATED: CNN expunged "don't ask, don't tell" question and answers in rebroadcasts of debate -- without disclosure

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

Rebroadcasts of the CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates omitted a question from a retired brigadier general about the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, as well as the candidates' answers to the question. CNN did not note the omission.

In rebroadcasts of the November 28 CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates, CNN expunged, without disclosure, a segment in which retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr asked the candidates to address "why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians." Kerr is a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans for Hillary Clinton steering committee and a co-chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee. In rebroadcasts of the debate at midnight ET and 3 a.m. ET on November 29, CNN omitted the Kerr question, as well as the candidates' answers to his question.

University of Southern California professor Marty Kaplan noted the omission in a blog entry on The Huffington Post, writing:

MORNING AFTER PILL UPDATE V: When CNN rebroadcast the debate, according to commenter AdamDek, the don't-ask-don't-tell question from Brig. Gen. (ret.) Keith Kerr was edited out of the program. Gone! Just like that.

In a statement published in a November 29 post on CNN's Political Ticker blog, CNN senior vice president David Bohrman, the executive producer of the debate, apologized for selecting Kerr's question, given his campaign affiliation: "We regret this, and apologize to the Republican candidates. We never would have used the General's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

On the November 29 edition of American Morning, co-host John Roberts interviewed Kerr and asked, "Now, did anyone from Hillary Clinton's campaign or from the steering committee or anyone else associated with a political organization put you up to the idea of asking this question?" Kerr responded: "Absolutely not. This was a private initiative on my own."

From the November 29 edition of CNN's American Morning:

ROBERTS: There were questions this morning about one of last night's questioners. It turns out that a retired general had links to the Clinton campaign. Here's his question, as submitted on YouTube.

KERR [video clip]: My name is Keith Kerr, of Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Command and General Staff Course, and the Army War College, and I'm an openly gay man. I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

ROBERTS: So there's the question, and retired Army Brigadier General Keith Kerr joins me now this morning. We discovered after the debate last night that you are, in fact, a member of Hillary Clinton's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered steering committee. We did not -- we did a background check, and we found that you have not made any campaign contributions to any candidate. Does that still stand?

KERR: That's correct.

ROBERTS: OK. Well, let me ask you about your position on this steering committee. What does that entail, and have you, in fact, done any work for Hillary Clinton's campaign?

KERR: I have not done any work. Several friends asked me if I would allow my name to be listed, and I agreed because she is such a strong advocate of gay and lesbian rights.

ROBERTS: So this really hasn't required anything on your part other than lending your name to it?

KERR: Correct.

ROBERTS: Now, did anyone from Hillary Clinton's campaign or from the steering committee or anyone else associated with a political organization put you up to the idea of asking this question?

KERR: Absolutely not. This was a private initiative on my own.

From the original airing of the November 28 CNN/YouTube Republican presidential candidates debate:

KERR: My name is Keith Kerr, of Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Command and General Staff Course, and the Army War College, and I'm an openly gay man. I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

COOPER: I want to point out that Brigadier General Keith Kerr is here with us tonight. Glad you're here. Again, the question to Congressman [Duncan] Hunter [CA].

HUNTER: Yeah. General, thanks for your service, but I believe in what [former Secretary of State and retired Army Gen.] Colin Powell said when he said that having openly homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion. And the reason for that, 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 and make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives. And they have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. 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: I want to direct this to [former Arkansas] Governor [Mike] Huckabee. Thirty seconds.

HUCKABEE: The Uniform Code of Military Justice is probably the best rule, and it has to do with conduct. 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.

COOPER: [Former Massachusetts] Governor [Mitt] Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, "openly and honestly in our nation's military." Do you stand by that?

ROMNEY: This isn't that time. This is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have watched --

COOPER: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?

ROMNEY: I'm going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like, and my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of a change.

COOPER: Is that a change in your position from --

ROMNEY: Yeah, I didn't think it would work. I didn't think "don't ask, don't tell" would work. That was my -- I didn't think that would work. I thought that was a policy -- when I heard about it, I laughed. I said, "That doesn't make any sense to me." And you know what? It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.

COOPER: So, just so I'm clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?

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 in our troops, and I'll listen to what they have to say.

COOPER: All right. General Kerr is -- as I said, is here. Please stand up, General. Thank you very much for being with us. Did you feel you got an answer to your question?

KERR: With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates.

COOPER: What do you -- what do you feel you did not --

KERR: American men and women in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians. For 42 years, I wore the Army uniform on active duty, in the Reserve, and also for the state of California. I revealed I was a gay man after I retired. Today, "don't ask, don't tell" is destructive to our military policy. Every day, the Department of Defense discharges two people, not for misconduct, not for the unit cohesion --

COOPER: Wait, the mike is -- you've lost -- is the microphone not working? All right. Please, just finish your -- what is your question?

KERR: Not for the unit cohesion that Congressman Hunter is talking about, but simply because they happen to be gay.

COOPER: OK. Senator [John] McCain [AZ].

KERR: And we're talking about doctors, nurses, pilots, and the surgeon who sews somebody up when they're taken from the battlefield.

COOPER: I appreciate your comment. Senator McCain, I want to give you 30 seconds. You served in the military.

McCAIN: General, I thank you for your service to our nation. I respect it. All the time, I talk to our military leaders, beginning with our joint chiefs of staff and the leaders in the field, such as General [David] Petraeus and General [Raymond] 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. 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.

COOPER: All right. We've got another question. Let's listen.

***

UPDATE: Before Marty Kaplan's post, which Media Matters referenced above, Huffington Post media editor Rachel Sklar noted CNN's omission of Kerr's question in a blog entry on The Huffington Post's live-blogging of the debate, writing:

UPDATE (Rachel): There has been some controversy about Gen. Kerr since it was revealed post-show that he has previousy been associated with Hillary Clinton's gay-issues steering committee. I watched the debate re-run and I could have dozed off, but I am almost positive that they cut Gen. Kerr's question and the subsequent responses out of the replay.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: No, they definitely cut that question out. Without disclosure.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
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CNN
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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