By: Shannon Ralph
In a televised Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday, a gay soldier was booed by the crowd after asking a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In a response that is both incredibly sad and a telling testament to their character, not one candidate on the stage came to the soldier’s defense. Not a single candidate said a word to the crowd about booing this man. Not a single candidate took a stand to defend a man putting his life on the line in service to the country they hope to one day lead.
“In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job,” said Stephen Hill, whose image was projected on a large TV screen in the debate hall. “My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”
Members of the crowd booed loudly at the question. Rather than first thanking Hill for his service or acknowledging his tour in Iraq in any way, Rick Santorum answered the soldier’s question by launching into an impassioned diatribe about reinstating DADT.
“I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military,” he said. “And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to — and removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”
The audience began to applaud as Santorum added, “We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. And I believe this undermines that ability.”
Since the debate, a few candidates, John Huntsman and Gary Johnson, have gone on record saying that they thought the booing was inappropriate, though neither of them spoke up to defend the soldier. Others like Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney have dodged questions about the controversy. Rick Santorum, in a brilliant display of absolute wussiness, stated that he simply did not hear the booing. Booing? What booing?
“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”
“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can, go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”