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July 22 2003 12:00 AM ET


9327
News
2003-07-22

Openly gay reporter target of smear campaign


Gay reporter faces smear tactics


Openly gay journalist Jeffrey Kofman has apparently become the target of a smear campaign after he broadcast a report for ABC News about the plummeting morale among U.S. soldiers in Iraq.



Openly gay journalist Jeffrey Kofman has apparently become the target of a smear campaign after he broadcast a report for ABC News about the plummeting morale among U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. Internet gossip Matt Drudge told The Washington Post last week that he had received a phone call from the White House communications department tipping him off to the fact that Kofman is not only Canadian but also gay. The White House has since denied making the call. Under the headline "ABC News Reporter Who Filed Troop Complaint Story Is Canadian," the Drudge Report Web site provided a link to a profile of Kofman that had run in The Advocate [see Archives below].

Kofman filed a report on ABC's World News Tonight last Tuesday, noting that morale among U.S. troops stationed in Iraq is falling dramatically. Soldiers in the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, stationed in Falloujah, expressed their discontent with the White House's decision to delay their return to the United States, the third time their return home has been postponed. One soldier said the changes "pretty much make me lose faith in the Army. I mean, I don't really believe anything they tell me." Another said, "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation."

After the report aired, the military said the soldiers who had spoken out would be disciplined. Some reports suggested that the six men Kofman interviewed might face the end of their military careers because of their comments. The news broadcast and the revelations on the Drudge Report also engendered sharp criticism from several right-wing pundits, who have accused Kofman of disloyalty because of his sexual orientation and Canadian citizenship. "When you take a job in the United States in the public eye, that goes with the territory," Kofman told the Toronto Globe & Mail. Kofman said he is willing to believe the White House's denial of involvement in the incident. "I'm going to take the White House at face value and accept the comments that they made, which is that this is the first that they've heard of it and if it did happen, then it was totally inappropriate."

Kofman is one of the best-known gay journalists in the United States. His partner of 17 years is the Canadian opera and theater designer Michael Levine. When Kofman was hired by CBS News, he pushed for the network to grant full benefits to the partners of gay staff members. Though he says he has never felt under attack because of his sexual orientation, some fundamentalist religious advocates have criticized him and his membership in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. During an interview with The Advocate in December 2001, after moving to ABC News, Kofman expressed the importance he placed on being openly gay on the job. "I am aware that part of my responsibility in this job is to be a role model," he said. "It's important to me because when I was a young reporter there were no role models. I didn't know that it would be possible for me to be openly gay and do what I'm doing."


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