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. Karen Illinois

    I am getting tired of the blatant campaigning that CNN does. Stick to the News and stay out of politics.

    November 29, 2007 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  2. Michael Graham Iowa

    it is stuff like this that makes me want to go somewhere else for my "news".

    November 29, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  3. Ginger

    Not that I had much left, but I think I've lost all respect for Mitt Romney. If this was a question regarding prayer he would have said "yeah, all for it"...but what about Muslim students who pray in school he'd say that was a "distraction" or cause "moral problems." If you're old enough to be in the military, you're old enough to be a grown up and suck it in that not everybody agrees with you.

    November 29, 2007 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  4. quyen tran, rosemead, ca

    gay or not gay, those people who serve in the military have a job to do, to protect the country. gay or not its their own personal rights and style of life. if you are gay or not you should keep it to your self.

    November 29, 2007 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  5. Dan Miller, Lewiston Idaho

    I'm tired of hearing of the gay and lesbian issues. Do you really think that the majority of Americans are concerned about that. When do we start working on real issues. Why does this subject take so much time on the national news especially on CNN. How about talking about what concerns American families instead of garbage. All CNN proved by giving this guy a microphone and time was that they wanted to put the republican candidates on the spot. Looked like a setup job to me. CNN is as liberal as FOX is conservative. What about reporting unbiased news for a refreshing change!!!

    November 29, 2007 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  6. Michael Wales, Fort Morgan, CO

    It seems to me that the "planted question" is a question that was correctly planted.

    If the hopefuls for the Presidency cannot answer the questions posed by ANY American (let alone one with Kerr's service record) than does that candidate deserve to lead our nation?

    By law employers cannot discriminate against any individual based on race, sexuality or religion, except for the United States Military. Why the double standard, land of opportunity?

    November 29, 2007 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  7. Tom H, Palm Valley, FL

    I think CNN is a bit biased to the Dems just as Fox is to the Repubs. Allowing someone of a rival's political advisory committee to ask a question is a bit overboard, and then continuing to let him rant in the audience was severely discrediting to CNN. That said, his question was a good one and viewers were given good insight into certain candidates position on the subject or in Mitt Romney's case, lack of any position.
    CNN has a chance here to emerge as a premiere and honest news agency, if they quickly and loudly admit to the error and even go so far as to rebuke Kerr for knowingly plant himself.

    November 29, 2007 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  8. Tevin, Raleigh, NC

    The response to this question was sickening! The booing was unacceptable! I'm so sick of bigotry. It's a shame the Republican party stands behind such ignorance!

    November 29, 2007 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  9. Brian Walker

    Finally someone mentions free speach. Anyone can ask a question. It doesn't matter if a republican asks a democrat, or a democrat asks a republican. If it is a valid question, it should be asked. It would appear then that no one would complain if it the same question was asked by someone else of equal rank then?

    November 29, 2007 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  10. Steve in Charlotte

    I was an officer in the US Army for 5 years and two deployments to Iraq... I would have NO PROBLEM serving with an openly gay or lesbian soldier. I am more concerned with whether a soldier knows how to do his or her job rather than their sexual orientation. This is why I don't like Republicans, I can't stand bigoted people. Right now there are homosexuals serving in the military, and that other service members know about their lifestyle, and they DONT CARE AS LONG AS THEY CAN DO THEIR JOBS.

    Funny how some people seem also seem to think that homosexuals don't make good soldiers (kind of similar to the way some bigots thought black people would not make good soldiers a long time ago). Remember a guy named Alexander the Great? He was bisexual. He also conquered most of the ancient world and kept his army together for years on the march. Sounds like a good soldier to me.

    November 29, 2007 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  11. Walt, Belton, TX

    I'd be happy to serve as President of general Kerr's Courts Martial Board.

    November 29, 2007 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  12. MC- Atlanta,GA

    the audience booed Him!???

    this man gave 43 years of his life to his country and all they can do is boo him for being gay?

    This is disgusting and reprehensible and just goes to show the frat boy mentality of the Republican party these days.

    November 29, 2007 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  13. Coy Slavik

    The fact that Kerr, who works for Hillary Clinton campaign, was allowed to not only pose a question via YouTube but also live at the debate without CNN doing any background check on him shows how much of a joke CNN is. One word CNN: "Google."

    November 29, 2007 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  14. demwit

    President Clinton OK'd that policy. Why would a Clinton plant be against it??

    November 29, 2007 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. David, Gilbert Arizona

    I didn't have a problem with the initial question posed by the brigadier general. What got me most is that CNN invited Mr. Kerr to personally attend the debate and asked him, live on camera, whether or not his question had been answered. Mr. Kerr took the opportunity to make his own speech that lasted longer than the answers given by the republican candidates. It became pretty obvious that the general was grand standing.

    It doesn't surprise me that the liberal left would plant someone to futher and agenda most Americans disagree with. It does surprise me that of all the people who asked questions it was the plant who CNN asked to personally attend the debate.

    November 29, 2007 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. joseph, austin,tx

    as a christian I could care less if your gay, just dont be mad that I think its icky. i cant believe they booed this man, that is just flat out wrong. his service outways his sexual orientation in my book.

    November 29, 2007 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. Heather, Chicago IL

    Well, as further odd coincidence for the evening – did anyone notice that the guy who asked the last question of Ron Paul ALSO asked a question in the democratic youtube debate? out of those thousands of submissions, this guy gets to ask two over two debates?

    this debate was just as fixed as the rest of them. But instead of being a Hilary love-fest, it was a Huckabee love-fest. Yawn.

    November 29, 2007 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Finished with Hillary

    I felt a deep sympathy for Gen. Kerr when he presented his case at the Republican Debate last night.

    This morning, I learn that he is another Hillary Clinton plant.

    I now feel that I have been manipulated once again by this Clinton tactic, and I have determined that there are absolutely no circumstances which will allow me to vote for Hillary.

    I will not be lied to or manipulated by a candidate that is in office to serve the American people.

    This is the last straw with Hillary. I am finished.

    November 29, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. spinstopper

    Why did CNN substitute this non issue question for the one on Health Care reform?

    November 29, 2007 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. Joe, Boston, MA

    Who cares if he works for Hillary's campaign? Since when does that mean that a question cannot be asked? That is ludicrous. When Bennett mentioned that last night I couldn't believe it.

    So this means that Republicans are only suppose to receive questions from Republican voters? That's not democracy folks!

    I actually think CNN should have allowed the questions that some of the democratic candidates put up on youtube to the republican candidates.

    Also, I thought the debate was pathetic. No questions about healthcare, education, etc. It only focused on the one topic that republicans are drooling over...immigration.

    Once again the republicans get away without telling us what they would do with domestic IMPORTANT issues.

    November 29, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. Steve in SC

    First of all this broke the CNN format. Why did that happen unless to embarass the repubs! Will CNN allow something like this to happen during a Dem debate? They haven't yet will be not in the future! CNN, you just got busted for your bias!

    November 29, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. its obvious

    Nick, Atlanta, Ga

    he SERVED on the committee of a gay rights orginization that doesnt mean he works for clinton. they are preety far removed from eachother especially because of one little fact....hes a republican...yes a gay republican...

    November 29, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  23. Confused Cape Coral FL

    Has anyone considered the possiblity that this veteran did this on his own initiative? Is he still working for the Clinton campaign? Even if he is, that does not lessen his right to speak out and express his own opinion independently of his committment.

    November 29, 2007 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. Allan Camden, SC

    I am simply amazed that so many people automatically assume that 1) Hillary planted the question and 2)CNN was taking sides. Who cares? The question was totally valid, needed to be asked and answered (it wasn't), and if I have any complaint about the debate it was that three of the candidates got most of the talking time. WHY? If anything, more pointed questions should have been used? We are talking about leadership of the – supposedly – leader of the free world. Who cares about the Red Sox/Yankees in this context? Or about pearls and diamonds? And the next time, don't apologize for using a valid question. I am irritated by all the comments assuming the question was planted, and somewhat disappointed in CNN.

    November 29, 2007 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |

    Shame on those audience members who booed the general.

    November 29, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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