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. S. Wright

    Hey CNN, nice job with the plant of the gay General. It is clear why no one endowed with any critical thinking skills whatsoever takes your broadcasts seriously.

    I don't even think Fox News would have done something that stupid.

    November 28, 2007 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  2. Christian, Tampa FL

    Kerr is listed under the link from, but that doesn't change the fact that he served in the military for a long time and that there are homosexuals who serve today and risk their lives, and that homosexuals have been killed in the line of duty.

    The idiotic discrimination that is shown to them must end. A couple of generations ago, these same candidates would have been opposed to racial integration in the military because of "unit cohesiveness." There were plenty of good conservative boys in generations past who weren't comfortable with serving alongside African Americans, for example.

    November 28, 2007 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  3. Atlanta

    This should be a non-issue. The importance should be on professionalism in the military. Sexual preference should never come up in the workplace, civilian or military, straight or gay.

    This man was in the military for 43 years (43 years more than most candidates) he would not have been there if he were not professional.

    November 28, 2007 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  4. Stan, Hancock, MD

    The Clinton campaign didn't "have to" plant questions in the Dem debate either, but they did. They don't call CNN the Clinton News Network for nothing.

    November 28, 2007 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  5. Russell Abbott, Lafayette, Louisiana

    It doesnt matter if he was a plant or not. It doesnt change the fact that for years we have been fighting the Bigots, the Racists and the Neo Nazis of this world.. and yet here they are under the guise of politicians.

    If your child was hurt while on a tour of duty, would you care whether the Medic/Covering fire/Rescue pilot or whoever, was gay ? Would you leave your child on the battlefield ? I thought not, give this person the proper respect or take his place and go to war yourself, you all make me sick.

    November 28, 2007 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  6. Billy Williams Willoughby, OH

    It was a valid question so why does it matter who he was? Did you watch the Democrat Youtube debate? Republicans asked questions there. :O Shocking isn't it?
    The guy served YOU for 40+ years and you judge him based on what he does in his bedroom. I still don't understand why you xstians picked this one sin to focus on :/

    November 28, 2007 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  7. Tanisha, Toronto, Ontario

    I thought it was extremely disrespectful how the audience booed this man. I also think it's unfortunate we still have such backward thinkers today who think that if something is tradition or has "worked" for so long that that makes it right. If so, then we'd still have slavery and women still wouldn't be able to vote. I don't see the harm in a gay person serving in the military. It's ridiculous to think that sexual orientation in any way affects ones ability to defend their country

    November 28, 2007 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  8. Susan, Toledo, Ohio

    What were you thinking planting this retired military person in the audience? Did anyone else have a microphone? Was any other U Tube presenter asked to join the debate in person? This is exactly why I stopped watching CNN years ago, please you have been doing so much better lately. Be fair, and please don't think that we are stupid enough to believe that "he" just showed up.

    November 28, 2007 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Seriously? You put the man in the audience, with a microphone for a follow-up to his YouTube question and you didn't research his background? I'm sure you can see how this is hard for us to believe!

    November 28, 2007 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  10. Jeff, Winston Salem, NC

    Couldn't they have checked this out before running him out there? Only questioner that had a platform, seems odd to me. Agree or disagree with the question being asked, it is still suspect to me. And by the way, he did get an answer from Hunter, just not the one he liked and now we know why. Though I suspect CNN knew this all along.

    November 28, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  11. John, Orange County, CA

    I love how CNN expects their audience to buy the idea this was an honest journalistic mistake. Funny how the guy who works for Clinton is the ONLY person who asked a question that was given airtime in the viewing audience. They honestly expect us to believe, they knew he had front row seating to this Republican event, planned to give him a microphone and equal time with the candidates, and never once checked his credentials? Either CNN is incredibly biased or their staff is incredibly incompetent, or both.

    November 28, 2007 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  12. Chris, Fort Collins, CO

    His working for Hillary has no bearing on the substance of his question or their failure to answer.

    I for one am tired of the contributions of gay Americans being swept under the rug. And it is shameful that the Republicans in that audience would boo a 43-year military veteran. Downright disgusting.

    November 28, 2007 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  13. Joe from NC

    In the current system of "don't ask, don't tell" and in the previous system of barring gays from serving period, a person could, in the event of a draft, get out of it by simply claiming to be gay. This increase in draft dodging could severly affect our army's ability to fight, especially in a war of the magnitude of world war II.

    I can't wait to hear the conservative response to this.

    November 28, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  14. john, arlington, va

    I don't remember the Dems getting tough questions on partial-birth abortion or the redefinition of marraige, but the Rs get multiple gay questions and a Clinton adviser gets an extended rant. Could it be because AC is in charge? He seems to be in favor of "don't ask, don't tell."

    November 29, 2007 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  15. Rex, Toledo, Ohio

    CNN obviously knew ahead of time who the questioner was. And yet, I bet they don't hold themselves responsible. More shady work by the Clinton News Network

    November 29, 2007 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  16. Ryan, Frederick CO

    CNN - do your homework on the background of who asks these questions - your reputation for partisan politics was just confirmed for me tonight in the way you screened this questioner - there is no excuse to have a member of a democratic campaign asking a question in a republican debate.

    November 29, 2007 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  17. Rick, Knoxville TN

    Looks like Kerr fell on a political grenade for CNN and Hillary. It's obvious that he was a plant and that CNN was complicit in the act. Cooper of all people should know who this guy is. Was it coincidence that he was the only questioner in attendance? I think not.

    Hillary's camp was caught again only this time a major news netork was in bed with her.

    Why doesn't this network post a disclaimer at the beginning of each segment telling the viewer that CNN is an affiliate of the Hillary for president campaign?

    November 29, 2007 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  18. Surri

    The supposed Republican woman in the "post-game analysis show" who said she decided to vote for Edwards after the debate is also likely a plant. Any Republican with a working brain would NEVER go from Republican to as far left as Edwards, unless they had brain damage from some accident or some mind control drugs with programming by a lib.

    November 29, 2007 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  19. Tim, Washington, D.C.

    Wow, class act by the Republican audience members booing a retired general.

    "Support Our Troops – Until They Speak Their Minds"

    November 29, 2007 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  20. Ryan, Chicago, IL

    It was stunning moment to have not only the Republican candidates dismissing a former GENERAL, but to have an audience booing a man calling for the most basic of civil rights.

    The same exact–literally word per word– fallacious and bigoted arguments were made when some brave individuals demanded blacks be allowed to serve in the military.

    Congratulations to the General!

    November 29, 2007 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  21. Christine, Hamilton MA goodness, CNN. How surprising!! From what Bill Bennett said, he was being plastered with emails as soon as the gentleman spoke up. Maybe you'd like to hire a few dozen of Bill's friends to do the crackerjack work of spotting a plant. No embarrassing apologies later!

    November 29, 2007 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  22. Jason, Twin Falls, ID

    Hey Nick, the last time I checked this is the USA and we do have freedom of speech. He's a registered voter, he has a right to ask any candidate a question regardless of party affiliation. CNN you need to be harder on these candidates like you are with the dems.

    November 29, 2007 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  23. Wayne, Williamsport, PA

    Regardless of whether or not the question was planted by Hillary Clinton, this question shows the great divide in our country and the need for a leader who will bring this country together. It amazes me that most of the Republican candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) favor a continuing presence in Iraq, but seem so staunchly opposed to gays and lesbians serving openly in the military and serving our country. Let's get real and stop worrying about the boogyman in the closet and bring back freedom in America!

    November 29, 2007 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  24. Dave,Immenstadt:Germany

    What difference does it make whom Mr.Kerr supports or works for?He presented a legitimate question to a topic that is just idiotic.The arguments that some in the miltary have used against having gay and lesbians serve are ridiculous.It brings back memories of arguments against having women serve in certain combat roles. I speak from experience.I served in the Air Force during the 80's as a security specialist. At the time women were also banned from this career choice.The arguments were the same as they are now concerning homo-sexuals.The policy changed-women were given the go ahead to become security specialist.The first arrived in our unit.The reaction was:"what on earth was the big deal all about?" My point is we now have female fighter pilots-openly homo-sexual elected public office holders.Yet some in the military and Republican politicians still kling to their old hat arguments about gays in the military.How grown people decide to lead their personal lives is nobodies business.It's time to move on to more pressing problems facing our nation.Gays should also have the right to serve their country also if they so choose.

    November 29, 2007 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  25. Shannon NY

    Why does CNN even get to do a debate? all they do is muck it up. Why not have some sort of journalist or someone who isn't a sell out moderate? Anderson Cooper I am sure gets a check from the Hillary Campaign. I really can't believe that CNN is so incompetent that they wouldn't know the background of the brig. gen. the question is why was he the only one in the audience and why did he get extra time? also I am glad they talked about the stars and bars instead of spending more time on something important.

    November 29, 2007 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
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