NBC cited only one pro-ban witness, a retired Army Ranger sergeant who got 3 seconds of airtime in the 2:39 segment. Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, who gave a detailed testimony supporting the ban, was not featured at all. The sergeant's statement, by the way, was immediately and angrily refuted by a veteran Army officer now in Congress.
Narrated by Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, the piece begins with lesbian retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah walking along a country path with her partner and a Frisbee-catching dog. She gives heartfelt testimony. Next comes retired Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, who lost a leg in Iraq and has been featured on other newscasts as the face of gay soldiering. Alva is shown with his prosthetic leg, in full uniform, and then testifying. Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), proclaims the gay ban "unpatriotic" and "cruel."
Near the end, Miklaszewski gives 3 on-camera seconds to Sgt. Major Brian Jones, who says, "We've got to huddle together to stay warm and keep from freezing in the night." His clip is followed, whack-a-mole style, by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), who proclaims, "As a former army officer, I can tell you that is an insult to me and to many of the soldiers."
Miklaszewski continues, aided by a graphic, to report that an ABC/Washington Post poll says 75 percent of Americans want gays to serve openly, up from 44 percent in 1993 when the law was passed. As usual, NBC makes no effort to clarify that the law Congress passed bars homosexuals from military service. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a Clinton Administration rule allowing service by homosexuals who do not act out. Donnelly pointed this out in her testimony, but NBC did not find that newsworthy.
Miklaszewski wraps up the piece by revisiting Joan Darrah, back in the pastoral setting, with Miklaszewski saying that Darrah had left the Navy and was "finally free to reveal her secret and campaign publicly for change." Who could disagree with this sweet woman and her Frisbee-loving dog?
Here's the transcript:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: For the first time in 15 years, the United States Congress today revisited the law known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's the policy that bars openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans from serving in the U.S. military. Because of it, the Pentagon has discharged an estimated 12,000 members of the armed services since the law was passed in 1993. Our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reports on this renewed debate over whether it's time to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
MIKLASZEWSKI: As an intelligence officer in the Navy, former Capt. Joan Darrah was trusted with the military's top secrets, but the most closely guarded secret was her own: She is gay. Darrah told lawmakers today that Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the law which prohibits gays from openly serving in the military, kept her in constant fear.
JOAN DARRAH: It's day to day, going to work and knowing no matter how good your performance is, if somehow somebody outs you, you're fired.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva lost his leg in the opening hours of the Iraq war but his biggest regret is the military would not accept the fact that he, too, is gay.
ALVA: I have proudly served a country that was not proud of me.
[Graphic: Growing political pressure to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell]
MIKLASZEWSKI: But there is growing political pressure to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell because, critics claim, it excludes many highly qualified gays from serving in the military.
CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-Conn.) I think the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is unpatriotic, I think it's counterproductive, in fact, I think it is absolutely cruel.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Proponents of the law argue, however, open service by gays would undermine the military's good order and discipline. Former Army Ranger Brian Jones claims close quarter combat conditions and gay soldiers don't mix.
BRIAN JONES: We've got to huddle together to stay warm and keep from freezing in the night.
PATRICK MURPHY (D-Penn.): As a former Army officer, I can tell that you is an insult to me and to many of the soldiers.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The Pentagon's position is that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the law and sees no reason to change it. But recent polls show 75% of Americans believe gays should openly serve in the military, (GRAPHIC SUPPORTS TEXT) up dramatically from 44% when the law was first enacted in 1993.
Shot of Darrah again with partner and dog in pastoral setting.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Capt. Darrah left the Navy but is finally free to reveal her secret and campaign publicly for change. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.