Bradley Manning must be terribly lonely. After all, how many gay men have made news the last few years without being celebrated in the media for their gayness? And a gay man who also “struggles with issues of gender identity” can pretty much write his own contract with MSNBC.
But the media, and the broadcast networks especially, are oddly reticent about the sexual orientation and confusion of Manning, the army private convicted of the most extensive military intelligence security breach in U.S. history.
Of the 125 mentions Manning has received on ABC, CBS and NBC news programs between his arrest in 2010 and July 30, 2013, just eight included references to his homosexuality. This is even stranger since his sexual preference was central to his defense – what some called the “Gay Soldier Defense.” According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “Lawyers for Pfc. Bradley Manning began laying out a defense to show that his struggles as a gay soldier in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.”
Indeed, according to The Washington Post’s post-verdict wrap-up, Manning’s lawyer did employ that argument as part of the defense. “Coombs portrayed Manning as a ‘young, naive but good-intentioned’ soldier who was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay service member at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. military.”
So Manning, according to his defense, leaked the information because he was a gay soldier serving before the end of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy on gays in the military, and because he fancied himself a woman trapped in a man’s body or something. How is it that the networks didn’t find this relevant enough to include it in more than just 6.4 percent of stories on Manning? The most recent network story to mention his sexuality was CBS “This Morning,” Dec. 23, 2011.
Since then the networks have focused on whether Manning was a courageous truth-teller or a malignant traitor. “The defense argues that Manning is a whistleblower,” said NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski on July 30, 2013. Yes, and what else did it say he is?
Similarly, on the July 27, 2013 CBS “This Morning,” anchor Anthony Mason said that Manning’s “lawyers described him as a naive whistleblower.”
Thought experiment: Imagine, instead of a treason conviction, Manning were receiving a medal for heroism. Would the networks be silent about Manning’s sexuality? Stop laughing.