No Critics Allowed: Big Three Nets Trumpet 'Historic' End to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

The Big Three networks unequivocally celebrated the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a "historic moment" on their Tuesday morning programs. CBS's "Early Show" turned to a discharged Air Force major who pushed for further recognition of same-sex couples by the military. NBC's "Today" brought on a homosexual playwright to promote his one-man movie on the policy. ABC's "GMA" only had a news brief on the development, but still highlighted how a magazine is "publishing photos of more than 100 active duty gay and lesbian troops who served in silence until now." None of the programs brought on dissenting voices to advocate the continuation of the policy.

"The Early Show" devoted the most amount of air time to the expiration of the policy, and led the 7 am Eastern hour with a slanted report from correspondent David Martin. Martin played sound bites from President Obama and outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, both opponents of the ban on open homosexuals from serving in the military, but none from supporters:

DAVID MARTIN: After 18 years of controversy, 'don't ask, don't tell' died at the stroke of midnight. From now on, gays can serve openly in the military, and the 13,000 who were discharged under 'don't ask, don't tell' can re-enlist.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from December 22, 2010 speech): No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military because they happen to be gay.

MARTIN: President Clinton first tried to repeal the ban on gays, but ran into the objections of then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell. A generation later, President Obama had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs on  his side. Admiral McMullen was the decisive voice calling for the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are, in order to defend their fellow citizens.

MARTIN: There are thousands of gay men and women in uniform, and, as one of them said, this will be the first day that I can be open and honest about who I am. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon.

Over an hour later, substitute anchors Jeff Glor and Rebecca Jarvis conducted a softball interview of former Air Force Major Mike Almy, who appeared unopposed during the segment. Glor cited "some gay rights groups [who] say its only the beginning, that more needs to be done." Almy wholeheartedly agreed, and hinted that the Defense of Marriage Act needed to be overturned:

JARVIS: What do you think the transition is going to be like?

ALMY: For me personally or as a whole?

JARVIS: Both-

GLOR: For the military as a whole. A non-event or a big one?

Mike Almy, Former U.S. Air Force Major | NewsBusters.orgALMY: Sure.  I think it's- well, there's two answers to that. For LGBT Americans, I think it's a huge event. This is a historic milestone. And now, gays and lesbians can serve honestly and openly in the military with full integrity, and have this 50-pound weight lifted off their back, that constant fear that they could be fired any day if someone overhears a conversation or misreads an e-mail. That fear is now gone, and they can serve openly and honestly, right alongside their straight counterparts.

For straight Americans, for straights who are in the military, I think it's going to be a non-event, which is a good thing, which highlights that gays and lesbians are already serving there. In many cases, they're open about it, and it's had no detrimental effect to the mission. If anything, it's enhanced the mission.

GLOR: This repeal has now happened, but some gay rights groups say its only the beginning, that more needs to be done.

ALMY: Yes-

GLOR: What do you think needs to be done?

ALMY: I think they're correct. This is, obviously, a watershed moment. We now have marriage equality in several states- New York, Massachusetts, Washington, DC- and yet, as of today, you can have servicemembers who are legally married in their state of residence, and yet, have no benefits, no recognition from the military- things such as health care insurance. If a military spouse- or if a military member was to go overseas, they couldn't take their spouse with them.

On the "Today" show, Natalie Morales spotlighted the "navy lieutenant [who] celebrated the end of the ban by marrying his long-time same-sex partner in Vermont in his dress uniform" during two news briefs between 7 am and 9 am Eastern. Morales also interviewed Mark Wolf, an openly homosexual actor and playwright (who also celebrated the end of DADT in a September 1, 2011 item on The Huffington Post), during the 9:30 am Eastern half hour. The NBC personality sympathized with some of the sob stories which Wolf highlighted in his one-man production:

MORALES: What was surprising to you in conducting these interviews? What did you learn out of this?

WOLF: I think what was really mostly surprising to me is, really, how paranoid people were. I met somebody at a cafe- I was sitting along the window- and he came in and said,'What are you doing here? I can't be seen talking here.' So, we had to go to the back. A woman I interviewed told me that someone they knew- the military had threatened to take her child away if she didn't turn other people in. So, yeah there's-

MORALES: Oh, my! Wow- a lot of horror stories.

WOLF: A lot of horror stories, yeah.

MORALES: And we should mention the movie opens today. But more than 13,000 servicemembers, of course, have lost their jobs, as a result of 'don't ask, don't tell.' What do you think now happens in this new era, where this ban has been lifted?

WOLF:  I think, in a way, nothing's going to happen, because the straight soldiers have been serving with gay soldiers forever. And so, it's not going to be a big thing. But for-

MORALES: Not a big sea change?


WOLF: Yeah. But for individuals, they won't have to lock their computer when they leave their desk. They won't have to worry about- is somebody going to find this letter to the boyfriend or the girlfriend that reveals something about them?

MORALES: And not lose their jobs, because so many did.

WOLF: And their benefits.

MORALES: Yeah. Marc Wolf, thanks so much for bringing this to light.

ABC's "Good Morning America" devoted a short news brief to the end of "don't ask, don't tell" just after the beginning of the 8 am Eastern hour. News anchor Josh Elliot highlighted how one homosexual publication marked the occasion:

JOSH ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, the U.S. military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy is now a thing of the past. It expired at midnight. Gays and lesbians can now serve openly without fear of losing their job. And, today, the magazine Out Serve is publishing photos of more than 100 active duty gay and lesbian troops who served in silence until now.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center