On July 23, 2007, CNN/YouTube hosted an interactive debate between the Democratic candidates in the 2008 Presidential Election, in which YouTube users submitted videos of themselves asking questions. A similar debate involving the Republican candidates occurred on November 28. This led to controversy, as they received and used a question from an undisclosed gay activist who turned out to be a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Retired Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr told candidates he was an “openly gay man,” member of the “California National Reserve”, and asked “why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians?” He did not mention that he was a member of the LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committee and a co-chair on Hillary Clinton’s National Military Veterans group.
Kerr was in the audience and host Anderson Cooper even asked him if he was satisfied with the answers. All of the candidates supported the “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy and Kerr said he was not happy with their responses. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett learned of Kerr’s involvement with the Clinton campaign approximately 30 minutes after the debate, while serving on a CNN panel. He received emails from friends who made the connection.
Cooper, the debate and panel moderator, quickly responded, saying that had CNN known Kerr was involved with the Clinton campaign, they would have disclosed the information or not used the question at all.
But there’s more. According to Col. Bill Campenni (USAF, ret), one of President Bush’s squadron mates in the Texas Air National Guard, there is no such thing as the California National Reserve of which Kerr claimed to be a former member.
Campenni told HUMAN EVENTS that Kerr is not even a retired Army General.
“He retired as a California Army National Guard colonel,” said Campenni. “It is common at Guard retirement ceremonies to give an honorary promotion to colonels to the STATE rank of Brigadier General…[but] it has no meaning other than a fancy certificate for the wall and use of the title at local Guard functions.”
Campenni said the rank of general is not federally recognized and the title can not be used or the rank worn outside the state.
Although CNN claimed they verified Kerr’s military background and that he had not contributed any money to any presidential candidate, it’s unlikely that no one at the network was aware of his identity within the Clinton campaign.
But whether they had knowledge or not, it was CNN’s journalistic responsibility to find out.
CNN Senior Vice-President David Bohrman said, “We regret this, and apologize to the Republican candidates. We never would have used the general’s question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate.”
According to a press release, the Clinton campaign did not know of Kerr’s question, though the campaign was recently criticized for planting a question at a recent speaking engagement.
The following morning on CNN, Kerr said he had not been active in the identified groups. He said, “Several friends asked me if I would allow my name to be listed as and I agreed because she is such a strong advocate of gays and lesbian rights.”
Kerr said he was a member of the Log Cabin Republican and that question “was a private initiative on my own,” not something encouraged by the Clinton campaign.
Additionally, Kerr was active supporter of the 2004 John Kerry Campaign and a member of the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network’s advisory council, which says it works to end discrimination against military members affected by policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” SLDN does more than that: they have sued the Defense Department seeking court orders to reinstate openly gay members to active duty.