[Update, 8 pm Eastern: Screen capture, video link to interview added.]
CNN anchor Kyra Phillips sympathized with an outed homosexual army officer on Tuesday’s Newsroom program. Phillips questioned Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach about his recent meeting with President Obama, and asked, “What else did you tell him, because I know this has weighed heavily on your heart for a very long time....What did he tell you that gives you...hope...that he is going to get rid of this?” [video of interview available here]
The anchor’s interview with Fehrenbach occurred a day after he attended a “celebrating LGBT Pride Month” event at the White House. He was the guest of the homosexual activist group the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which presses for the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (as Rachel Maddow announced on her MSNBC show a week earlier), and is promoting a petition on the lieutenant colonel’s behalf. After noting the officer’s career and “nine medals for bravery as a combat pilot,” Phillips began with an enthusiastic question: “So there you were- every chance to say everything you ever wanted...to the president about the situation that you are fighting for, which is your job, and to get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ How did you make your way to the president for a one-on-one?”
As Fehrenbach answered, Phillips interrupted with a glowing follow-up question about the encounter: “And he knew who you were, right?” When he finished, the anchor made her “weighed heavily on your heart” remark. The officer continued by offering more about his experience with the president, and how “everyone I worked with has shown total support.”
This was not the first time Phillips had interviewed Fehrenbach, as she indicated with her “good to see you again” greeting to the lieutenant colonel. Almost exactly a month earlier on June 1, the CNN anchor had him on as a guest, where she was more explicitly sympathetic to him: “Victor, let’s just point out, looking at your bio- I mean, you were hand-picked to patrol the air space over D.C. after 9/11.... I mean, what’s hard for me to understand is how can anyone say, eh, ignore all that. You’re gay. You can’t be in the military.”
The full transcript of the interview, which aired during the 1 pm Eastern hour of Tuesday’s Newsroom program:
KYRA PHILLIPS: Army Lieutenant Dan Choi could find out his fate today. He’s an Army National Guard officer who publicly announced that he’s gay. Choi is facing discharge under the military's ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. A military board is meeting about his case today in Syracuse.
Watching that case very closely- Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. In his 19-year career, he’s received nine medals for bravery as a combat pilot. He was handpicked to patrol the air space over Washington after 9/11. He’s got 400 flight hours and has flown 88 combat missions, but he’s also facing discharge because an acquaintance that revealed to the top brass that Fehrenbach is gay. Last night, he talked to President Obama at the White House. The gathering commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, a raid on a New York gay nightclub that started the modern gay rights movement. Colonel Fehrenbach joins me live from Washington. Victor, good to see you again.
LT. COLONEL VICTOR FEHRENBACH: Thank you, Kyra, good to be here.
PHILLIPS: So there you were- every chance to say everything you ever wanted to the president- to the president about the situation that you are fighting for, which is your job, and to get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ How did you make your way to the president for a one-on-one?
FEHRENBACH: I was actually just in a lucky spot. Just as he came out of the Red Room, I happened to be right one-on-one with him as he- as he exited, and basically introduced myself- told him I was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force for 18 years, and that I was being discharged under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I-
PHILLIPS: And he knew who you were, right?
FEHRENBACH: He did. He looked like he knew who I was and what my situation was. So, I told him, you know, the situation for me was urgent, and that I needed his help- and he looked me directly in the eye and said, ‘We are going to get this done.’
PHILLIPS: What- what else did you tell him, because I know this has weighed heavily on your heart for a very long time-
FEHRENBACH: It has.
PHILLIPS: And this has been really frustrating for you-
FEHRENBACH: It has.
PHILLIPS: Because you think that you could be discharged at any moment.
PHILLIPS: So- so what- what did you tell him, and what did he tell you that gives you, I guess, hope, or at least a positive feeling that he is going to get rid of this?
FEHRENBACH: Like you mentioned, it is urgent for me. I’ve got- I’ve got about five or six months perhaps. I’m on the clock, as they say. The president went on to say, you know, we’ve got a lot of people behind this. You know, he’s obviously showed his- that it’s the top of his agenda, and he said, ‘We’ve got the Congress- they’re behind it, and we’ve got 75 percent of the American people that are behind- behind repealing this law.’ So, he said, ‘You know, what- what it is, really, is a generational gap, basically.’ He said, ‘We’ve got some convincing to do to the- the senior leaders in the older generation.’And that’s actually what I expected all along, that that might have been the problem.
PHILLIPS: As in the senior leaders in the older generation within the military- right now, the active force?
FEHRENBACH: That’s- that’s what I- I think it might be, because, you know, I go to work every day- I’m still doing the job that I did before any of this came to light, and, you know, everyone I worked with has shown total support, and they’ve been professional, and they’ve gone about the mission. I’ve also received about 5,000 messages, a lot of those from guys I’ve flown with in combat and people who have worked with me and for me in the military, and I’ve gotten nothing but support. So I can tell you from firsthand experience that the younger officer corps and the young enlisted corps are 100 percent behind repealing this law. They’re 100 percent behind the president implementing his new policy of nondiscrimination. So I think it may be the senior leaders who might be the ones resisting this. It’s like I said- the American public is behind it; the Congress is behind it; and the younger military force is behind it.
PHILLIPS: Did he give a time line?
FEHRENBACH: No. I suspect that- I hope it will be within 6 to 12 months. So, I think that I may end up being discharged at the end of the day, but if the law’s repealed, then- then that’s- that’s for the greater good. I hope that, if it is repealed, then maybe I can come right back in the military and finish out my- my career.
PHILLIPS: Well, I know either way, you’ve got quite a decorated career, and you will also remain an activist- that’s for sure. Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, appreciate it.
FEHRENBACH: Thank you, Kyra.