Wednesday’s Situation Room program on CNN devoted nearly three times as much time to clips from advocates of overturning the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy than the one sound bite from a proponent of keeping the policy. The two advocates- Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy and a female Iraq war veteran had 33 seconds of air time, compared to the 12 seconds from a conservative spokesman.
Correspondent Chris Lawrence’s report, which aired 38 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, focused on a tour led Rep. Murphy to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which is “targeting districts where military families live, trying to drum up enough popular support to get the needed votes in Congress” to repeal the policy. After playing the 12 second sound bite from the Democrat, Lawrence featured the first clip from Staff Sargent Genevieve Chase, an Iraq war veteran, who is among the tour’s “straight soldiers and veterans” who are trying to “reach other troops and their families.”
What the CNN correspondent didn’t mention during his report is how two homosexual advocacy groups- the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United, helped organize this tour with Rep. Murphy.
Lawrence, after giving a history of the policy concerning homosexuals in the military, played a clip from Tommy Sears, the executive director of the conservative Center for Military Readiness. He also read an excerpt from a letter signed by 1,000 officers which urged President Obama to keep the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But he followed this with his second clip from Sgt. Chase, who rebuked the signers of the letter and their supporters.
The correspondent concluded his report by stating that “there...have been a few hundred gay troops who have been kicked out since President Obama took office, and some critics say he’s passing the buck, that he could use his executive power to temporarily suspend these discharges in a time of war.”
The full transcript of Chris Lawrence’s report from Wednesday’s Situation Room:
WOLF BLITZER: There’s a new campaign under way right now to try to change the U.S. military’s policy on gays and lesbians serving in the United States military. This time, opponents of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ have recruited new allies- straight servicemen and women.
Let’s go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence- he’s working this story for us- part of increasing pressure on the president to change that policy, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE: That’s right, Wolf, and, at the same time that the highest-ranking military officer's urging a measured change to the policy, others are going full-speed ahead.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): A congressman and combat veteran is launching a nationwide tour to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE. PATRICK MURPHY, DEMOCRAT: In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed, or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were.
LAWRENCE: Representative Patrick Murphy is targeting districts where military families live, trying to drum up enough popular support to get the needed votes in Congress. And the tour is using straight soldiers and veterans to reach other troops and their families.
STAFF SGT. GENEVIEVE CHASE, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I can speak to people who may not be open to speaking to- to gays and listening to them.
LAWRENCE: The original law was, homosexuality is not compatible with military service. The 1993 compromise said, the military won’t ask recruits if they’re gay before being inducted, and gay troops won’t tell.
TOMMY SEARS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS: Basic human behavior- in terms of relationships between people who may be sexually attracted to each other, has not appreciably changed in 16 years.
LAWRENCE: The Center for Military Readiness says, there’s no reason to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and 1,000 former officers agreed. They signed a letter to President Obama that said, ‘Forcing soldiers to live so closely with openly gay troops for months at a time does hurt morale and cohesion.’ But some straight soldiers disagree.
CHASE: Everybody on the opposition used us as saying- and said, you know, this is going to disrupt unit cohesion and it- you know, it’s going to offend the who aren’t gay. Well, you know what? We’re here to say, no, it doesn't- it doesn’t offend us, and stop talking for us.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Of course, there are other soldiers who feel differently who may not be as comfortable speaking out. There are- have been a few hundred gay troops who have been kicked out since President Obama took office, and some critics say he’s passing the buck, that he could use his executive power to temporarily suspend these discharges in a time of war. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pressure is certainly mounting on him to do precisely that. Chris, thank you.