November 28th, 2007
10:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Gay war vet presses candidate on gays in the military

(CNN) - In a powerful moment in the home-stretch of the CNN/YouTube debate, Keith Kerr, a 43-year military veteran and retired general, who announced he was gay after retitiring from the military, asked the GOP candidates why they think "American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians?"

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee both said that openly homosexual individuals in the military would create problems with troop morale and unit cohesion.

When Romney was pressed by moderator Anderson Cooper about whether he looks forward to a time when gays can serve openly in the military, as he said he did in 1994, Romney dodged the question.

"I can listen to the people on the military to see what the circumstances are like," Romney said.

Kerr took specific issue with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who said, "most kids who leave that breakfast table who go out to serve in the military and break that corporate decision with the family, most are conservative and have conservative values and Judeo-Christian values. And to force those people to have 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."

When asked by Anderson Cooper if he received adequate answers to his question, Kerr responded that he had not, and said, "What Congressman Hunter is talking about, that they simply they happen to be gay. We are talking about doctors, nurses, pilots and surgeons who sew somebody up when they are taken from the battlefield."

In the middle of Kerr's response, his microphone cut out briefly, which only added to the heat of the moment as the St. Petersburg audience booed Kerr while he was speaking.

- CNN 's Natalie Apsell and Lauren Kornreich

UPDATE: CNN later learned that retired brigadier general Keith Kerr served on Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender steering committee.

CNN Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of the debate, David Bohrman, says, "We regret this incident. CNN would not have used the General's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Nick, Atlanta, Ga

    According to a press release on 6/27/07, this exact same man, Keith Kerr, is a member of Hilary Clinton's "LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committee".

    Why was he allowed to question the GOP nominees during a primary debate? He works for the Democratic frontrunner?

    November 28, 2007 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  2. Chris, Pensacola FL

    I think it's sad they treated this vet like they did.

    Should of asked the whole platform their answers.

    November 28, 2007 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  3. Dan, Phila, PA

    It's funny to see the policy that CNN screens these with some prior posters. Anyway, I think the debate's kind of corny, especially these idiots from the internet. "Do you believe this book!!!". I've posted my rant, feel free to enjoy.

    November 28, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  4. Bob Smith, Grand Rapids, MI

    The gay rights issue was a very small part of the two hour debate. Immigration, taxes, and the Iraq questions and responses were much more substantive. Give us the news, not your personal biases when reporting the news. We expect more professionalism from an organization like CNN!!!

    November 28, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  5. Jacob, Evanston Illinois

    As a very strong Romney supporter I will admit that his answer to this question was wrong. He dodged the question and should have had a better response. When a homosexual asks a question on youtube his answer would have been different. Same goes for all candidates. But since the former general was actually attending the debate it through Romney off and if other candidates were asked the same question they all would have been thrown off.

    November 28, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. Dan, Phila, PA

    When is someone going to stand up to McCain on anything military? I get it, he's a patriot. But they always defer to him.

    November 28, 2007 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  7. Mead, Phoenix, AZ

    After the debate, William Bennett told Anderson Cooper that he had heard Mr. Kerr was working for the Clinton campaign and that this should have been disclosed; Anderson Cooper agreed that if true, it should, in fact, have been disclosed.

    Whatr's missing here is that if this is NOT true, then CNN has been complicit in allowing Bill Bennett to spin against Clinton. In that event, CNN needs to disavow itself of Bennett and his allegation, and needs to cut ties with Bennett as a panelist.

    November 28, 2007 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  8. ted w. - fox island, wa.

    Oh please, this guy is just lost without his power base at a brig. general . He's lukcy he got singled out. That should feed his ego until he writes that "book" that no doubt will follow his little 15 min. of fame.

    November 28, 2007 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  9. Eyvonne Meyer Jonestown, Pennsylvania

    I'm sure this one won't be posted. I noticed that the commentator went directly to the Christian conservtives with this question. The soldiers I know say they don't want a gay man or woman being in close quarters with them. It does seem that the don't ask don't tell is working. So leave it alone.

    November 28, 2007 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  10. Christy los osos cal

    You know that is what's disgusting about republicans is that they would rather see a man or women be put out on the streets to secure thier own personel beliefs than have someone be proud of thiers! Im done with the stupidity of America! Im straight and would not think twice about who was gay that was standing aside me in battle. For all of you that support this you make me sick! Republicans you will not be elected for 08!

    November 28, 2007 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  11. Kevin, Placerville California

    This question was a waste of valuable debate time.

    November 28, 2007 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  12. Walter, San Diego

    The answers from Republican candidates to this question are disappointing enough. But to have the Republican crowd boo a retired general just reinforces the message about who "supports the troops."

    Democrats honor the service of all. But to get the respect of Republicans, service isn't enough. You have to support their backward and provincial prejudices and share their peculiar hatreds. If you don't measure up, you're swiftboated.

    November 28, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. Pablo, Los Angeles, CA

    The audience booed a 43-year veteran of the United States Army simply because he's gay. Just another reminder why I vote Democrat.

    November 28, 2007 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  14. Brian, Syracuse NY

    I knew Republicans hated the troops, but wow, this is ridiculous. Booing a veteran who has served this country so well is a disgrace!

    November 28, 2007 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  15. Anna Brooklyn,NY

    In effect he said that we should perpetuate discrimination because we have for so long. Sticking with a mistake doesn’t correct it.

    November 28, 2007 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  16. Asher Heimermann, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

    I'm hearing this man might be working or volunteering for another candidate's campaign? If this is true, can CNN add this to the blog?

    November 28, 2007 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  17. Tobias Dee, Detroit, MI

    The retired general just so happens to be a member of Hillary Clinton's "LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committe". So not only did CNN stage the Democratic debate in Vegas with Democratic activists but they also plant a Hillary activist during the Republican debate. Why is CNN carying water for Hillary?

    November 28, 2007 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  18. EP, Tampa, FL

    A needed question but did we need another Hillary plant? Nice that CNN found out AFTER the fact that the general is part of a Hilliary Clinton task force and owned up to the fact they blew it.

    What more proof do you need that Hilliary will do whatever it takes to get elected.

    Oh, nice job CNN on mucking up another debate.

    November 28, 2007 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  19. Janet, Berkeley Springs, WV

    Come on CNN! Everybody knows you knew this was a CLINTON operative. And by the way, the moron who disguised herself as a voter in your group of 24 who said she had decided to vote for EDWARDS, is also a plant and YOU KNOW IT. You must think we're morons, but you're the real morons to think you have a chance of pulling this off!

    November 28, 2007 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  20. Lee; Des Moines, IA

    This is the same thing that would have been discussed about African-American Troops in the corps 60 years ago.

    Also, I'm sure that there are members of the military that have ideological problems with other religious groups within the military. How is this significantly different?

    While I would agree that this is not the time that this issue should take center stage, I guess that I feel in that, in the long run, the unit will adapt...just like it has every time in the past.

    November 28, 2007 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  21. Randy, Paducah KY

    Wow, Mitt wouldn't even answer the question! (but he didnt answer a whole lot tonight at all anyway)

    Gays should be treated no differently than heterosexuals! If you want to keep gay people quiet, then heterosexual people need to be quite as well. There is no reason to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation!

    November 28, 2007 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  22. James, Phoenix AZ

    As a conservative gay man who is too cowardly to serve in the military and cannot become President (I was born in Ireland), I have to tow the party line and assert that this was not a flip-flop, unless Hillary said it.

    November 28, 2007 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  23. Bob, Iowa

    there she goes again...planting questions all over the place


    November 28, 2007 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  24. Eric Murphy, Ayden, NC

    The audience booing Kerr is sickening. I've always voted Republican but I've always been for gay rights. I was disgusted that a man who served our country as a General could be treated so bad. The same book that lists homosexuality as a sin also lists eating pork as a sin. I just don't understand why xstians pick that "sin" to rally around. Treating a vet like that just cost the Republicans my vote. If Hillary is the nominee for the Democrats I'll be staying home in 08.

    November 28, 2007 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  25. Max, Concord, NH

    I was disgusted that there was "booing" in the audience as this man spoke. These are the people who claim to "support the troops" yet this man serves for 43 years and he gets booed for his sexual orientation that in no way affected his service to this nation. It was also incredibly disrepectful they way none of the candidates–particuarly Romney–fully answered the question.

    I also do not think CNN did anything to "plant" a Hillary supporter. He was a man with a unique background that really highlights an important issue. It puts a face to the issue itself and really puts the candidates on the spot. There was no mention of his political affiliation–one can assume liberal, but that was not clear and he might just as easily been a Log Cabin Republican–nor who he supports (apparently Clinton, I'm reading). It did nothing to support Hillary Clinton or her campaign. Why was this so shameful?

    November 28, 2007 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
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