CNN, as part of its Republican debate with YouTube, failed to mention that retired general Keith Kerr, who announced he was gay after his retirement from the Army, is a member of Hillary Clinton’s "LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committee." Not only did General Kerr ask the question via a YouTube video, but he was also present in the audience, and got to ask the candidates for a "straight answer" (pardon the pun).
General Kerr’s, whose question came 47 minutes into the 9 pm Eastern hour the debate, is also part of the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network's advisory council, an organization "dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and related forms of intolerance"
[See updates below: Bill Bennett mentioned Kerr's possible Hillary connection on CNN 30 minutes after the debate, and Anderson Cooper confirms this at the close of the 10 pm Eastern hour.]
Host Anderson Cooper first directed Kerr’s question to California Congressman Duncan Hunter, followed by responses from Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Cooper then asked Kerr if he was satisfied by those who had answered his question, and was given a minute to address the candidates. Senator McCain then replied to Kerr’s question.
A full transcript of the exchange between Kerr, Cooper, and the candidates:
BRIG. GEN. KEITH KERR, U.S. ARMY (RET.): My name is Keith Kerr, Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service, and I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Corps, the Command and General Staff Course, and the Army War College. And I'm an openly gay man. I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians?
ANDERSON COOPER: I want to point out the Brigadier General Keith Kerr is here with us tonight. I'm glad you're here. I give the question to Congressman Hunter.
CONGRESSMAN DUNCAN HUNTER: Yeah. General, thanks for your service. But I believe in what Colin Powell said, when he said that having openly-homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion. And the reason for that, even though people point to the Israelis, and point to the Brits, and point to other people having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans -- most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military and make that corporate decision with their family -- most of them are conservatives, and they have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. And to force those people to work in a small, tight unit with somebody who is openly-homosexual, who goes against what they believe to be their principles -- and it is their principles -- is I think a disservice to them. And I agree with Colin Powell, that it would be bad for unit cohesion.
COOPER: I want to direct this to Governor Huckabee. 30 seconds.
GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE: The Uniform Code of Military Justice is probably the best rule, and it has to do with conduct. People have a right to have whatever feelings, whatever attitudes they wish. But when their conduct could put at risk the morale, or put at risk even the cohesion that Duncan Hunter spoke of -- I think that's what is at issue, and that's why our policy is what it is.
COOPER: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, 'openly and honestly' in our nation's military. Do you stand by that?
ROMNEY: This isn't that time. That is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have watched...
COOPER: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?
ROMNEY: I can listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of a decision.
COOPER: Is that a change in your position from when the time...
ROMNEY: I didn't think it would work. I didn't 'don't ask, don't tell' would work. That was my -- I didn't think it work. I thought that was a policy -- when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn't make any sense to me. And you know what? It's been there now, for what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.
COOPER: So, just so I am clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?
ROMNEY: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops, and I'll listen to what they have to say.
COOPER: General Kerr, as I said, is here. Please stand up, General. Thank you very much for being with us. Do you feel you got an answer to your question?
KERR: With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates.
COOPER: What do you feel you did not...
KERR: American men and women in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians. For 42 years, I wore the uniform -- Army uniform -- on active duty, in the Reserve, and also for the State of California. I revealed I was a gay man after I retired. Today, 'don't ask, don't tell' is destructive to our military policy. Every day, the Department of Defense discharges two people, not for misconduct, not for the unit cohesion...
COOPER: What? The mike has been lost -- you've lost the -- is the microphone not working? All right. Please just finish your...
KERR: ...what Congressman Hunter is talking about, but simply becuase they happen to be gay...
COOPER: Okay. Senator McCain...
KERR: ...and we're talking about doctors, nurses, pilots, and the surgeon who sews somebody up when they are taken from the battlefield.
COOPER: I appreciate your comment. Senator McCain, I want to give you 30 seconds. You served in the military.
MCCAIN: General, I thank you for your service to our nation. I respect it. All the time, I talk to our military leaders, beginning with our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the leaders in the field, such as General Petraeus and General Odierno, and others who are designated leaders with the responsibility of the safety of the men and women under their command and their security, and protect them as best as they can. Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history. We have the bravest, most professional, best prepared, and that this policy ought to continued, because it's working.
[h/t to the Freepers on their live thread]
[Update, 11:23 pm Eastern: During the post-debate coverage on CNN, Bill Bennett mentioned that he was receiving 'a ton of e-mails' about Kerr being on Hillary Clinton's 'gay steering committee."
A full transcript of the exchange between Bennett and host Anderson Cooper, which took place at the bottom half of the 10 pm Eastern hour:
BILL BENNETT: "On that 'don't ask, don't tell' [question], I'm getting a ton of e-mails saying that this guy who asked the question was part of Hillary Clinton's gay steering committee. I don't know if that's true or not, but if he is, that certainly should have been disclosed...."
ANDERSON COOPER: "That's interesting. I had not heard the possibility that he is on some sort of steering committee for a Democratic campaign. [If] that's true...
BENNETT: I don't know. I'm just getting the e-mails to that effect.
COOPER: "...it would have been disclosed. Yeah, well no, it's something we should follow up on, because certainly I had not heard that, and had no knowledge of [that], nor do I think anyone here. And if so, that should have been certainly disclosed, and we would have disclosed that. I do know that he is an activist of some sort, but I had not heard that he's actually working for a campaign. If so, that would certainly be an issue that should be addressed immediately."]
[Update, 11:40 pm Eastern: At the close of the 10 pm Eastern hour of post-debate coverage, host Anderson Cooper confirmed the tips Bennett received.
COOPER: "Bill Bennett earlier mentioned he was getting some reports from friends of his on the Internet that Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who asked a question about gays in the military during this debate, was on a steering committee for Senator Hillary Clinton. That was something certainly unknown to us, and had we known that, would have been disclosed by us. It turns out we have just looked at it. Apparently, there was a press release from some six months ago. Hillary Clinton's office saying that he had been named to some steering committee. We don't know if he's still on it. We're trying to find out that information. But certainly, had we had that information, we would have acknowledged that in using his question, if we had used it at all.]