Gay YouTube General a Hillary Plant – So What?
The blogosphere is abuzz over the revelation that Keith Kerr, the 74-year-old retired Army colonel and California National Guard general who stunned the candidates in last night’s YouTube debate with the announcement that he was openly gay, works for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Jonathan Martin describes the question itself as “a powerful moment.”
A retired Army general, Keith Kerr, just listed all his military credentials and then left the crowd silent by saying at the end of his video that he is “an openly gay man” and wants to know why gays can’t serve in the military.
Romney was hit by Anderson Cooper with a past statement (imagine that) saying that he “look[ed] forward” to the day gays could serve. Pressed hard by Cooper about whether he had changed his mind, Romney plainly looked displeased. “This isn’t that time,” Romney first said, noting the national security threats. He said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy “seems to have worked” and, toward the end, even drew some boos (it was tough to discern exactly why).
Kerr, present in the audience, was then introduced by Cooper and said he didn’t feel as though he got an answer. Explaining why, he got his own boos (partially snuffed by some shushing).
It all made for some feet-shuffling and floor-staring among the gathered Republicans.
Oh, my tireless colleague Avi Zenilman back at Politico World HQ does an insta-search on Kerr and discovers he was on the Steering Committee of “Veterans for Kerry.”
It turns out that Kerr’s political activism goes further. Within minutes of the question, several conservative bloggers typed his name into search engines.
Adam Yoshida quickly discovered that Kerry is a member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Presidency. He also wonders “who put a seventy-four year-old guy up to asking a question on YouTube.”
NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez passed on the word and it went viral.
NewsBuster Matthew Balan reports that, “Keith Kerr was known to CNN as a gay activist as far back as December 2003, when he was featured in this CNN article.”
Townhall‘s Jonathan Garthwaite reports, “In the final seconds of the post-debate coverage, Anderson Cooper acknowledges that CNN messed this up and states that CNN did not know that Kerr has a position within the Clinton campaign and that had they known, they would have disclosed the association.”
Wizbang’s Kevin Aylward ain’t buying it:
CNN would have you believe that out of all the people THEY selected to ask video taped questions of the Republican presidential candidates the this evening at the CNN/YouTube debate they had no idea that Keith Kerr, retired Colonel., U.S. Army; retired Brigadier General, California National Reserve, was a member of a Hillary Clinton LGBT Steering Committee. Nor did they know was on the National Veterans for Kerry Steering Committee in 2004.
Anderson Cooper would have you believe that a network that could select this question, find that 13-year-old Romney quote, create the trap for Romney (which he fell face first into), and (presumably) fly Kerr to the debate, could not type “Keith Kerr, retired Colonel” into Google and find the link to the Hillary Clinton press release, which prior to the debate appeared in the first 10 results for that search?
There’s lot of talk about the Clinton campaign “planting” Kerr or otherwise being in cahoots with CNN. Hot Air‘s AllahPundit gets it exactly right, though:
As incredible as it may seem, given all the flak they took for not vetting questioners after the last debate, CNN not only approved a question from someone affiliated with the Clinton campaign without identifying the affiliation, they invited him to the debate so that he could ask a follow-up. One of the lefty blogs whined after my post about the last debate that those crazy wingnuts shouldn’t be surprised to find former state Democratic Party officials asking questions at what was, after all, a Democratic Party event. Okay. Should I not be surprised to find a Democratic campaign operative — not just from this campaign but from the last one too, per the end of this post — asking questions at the Republican debate either?
Just identify the guy, CNN. His question’s perfectly fair. And, apropos of nothing, Hunter’s answer is awful.
CNN should have done due dilligence and reported Kerr’s affiliation, which is certainly relevant. But his question was absolutely a fair one. Sure, it reinforces my criticism of the YouTube Debate‘s pretense of presenting ordinary people asking real questions rather than engaging in the “gotcha” games that journalists play.
At the same time, though, it buttresses the point that Steve Grove, Head of News & Politics at YouTube, made in his interview with me that the video format and use of “real people” add a context that makes the questions more powerful. Certainly, having a gay man with 40 years of distinguished service ask the question makes it much more poignant — and awkward to answer — than if it were just a hypothetical posed by a CNN anchor.
That doesn’t get CNN off the hook. Michelle Malkin reports that Kerr wasn’t the only “plant” in this debate. Within three hours after the debate, she had found no less than half a dozen of the questioners who are obviously Democrats and active supporters of Democratic candidates.
Again, who these people are doesn’t invalidate their questions. But what are they doing asking questions in a Republican primary debate? The point of these things is to help Republicans decide between candidates for their party nomination. If anything, shouldn’t CNN be seeking out Republican questioners?
Indeed CNN executives themselves acknowledge the problem:
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.”
They simply should have known. If lone bloggers can vet these people in less than half an hour, surely CNN’s crack journalistic team should have been able to do so between the time they selected the pool of questions and the airing of the debate?
The Weekly Standard‘s Richelieu, unaware of the controversy, nonetheless called it “a depressing debate.” Taking on his namesake’s character, he writes,
I feel lucky to be from an earlier century where your own founding fathers knew that the secret to government is to protect it from the daily mob. Clearly the boundless paranoia of middle-aged media executives about the kids and their mysterious “Internet” has led them to stoop to this kind of pandering foolishness. They should feel shame tonight.
So, a good night for for the lowest denominator, a bad night for the GOP. America got to see a vaguely threatening parade of gun fetishists, flat worlders, Mars Explorers, Confederate flag lovers and zombie-eyed-Bible-wavers as well as various one issue activists hammering their pet causes. My cheers went to a listless Fred Thompson who easily qualified himself to be president in my book by looking all night like he would cheerfully trade his left arm for an early exit off the stage to a waiting Scotch and good Cuban cigar.
If one didn’t know better, one might suspect that CNN intentionally assembled a bunch of yahoos in the crowd to represent the Republican base and then fed the candidates gotcha questions from Democrats in order to make them look bad. That would be entertaining, I suppose, but horridly bad journalism. It’s perhaps more hopeful to think that they simply didn’t bother to vet the questioners. Of course, that’s not exactly good journalism, either.
Since CNN is known for its fine journalism, however, there’s almost certainly a third alternative explanation. It eludes me at the moment.
UPDATE: Wizbang‘s Jay Tea offers up a new CNN slogan: “If It’s News To You, It’s News To Us.”