Santorum Didn't Hear Boos, But Thanks Gay Soldier

BY Michelle Garcia

September 23 2011 5:30 PM ET

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said he didn't hear booing from the audience during Thursday night's GOP debate after a question from a gay soldier about "don't ask, don't tell," but he said he would have condemned the jeering audience members.

On Friday, Fox News's Megyn Kelly asked him about the booing after soldier Stephen Hill asked whether any of the nominees would bring back "don't ask, don't tell" if elected. The question was then posed directly to Santorum, who said lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was "playing social experimentation."
 
The following day, Santorum followed up by saying he was not aware of the boos because he was concentrating on the question at hand, but if he had been, he would have addressed them. "I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier. That soldier is serving our country. I thank him for his service for our country. I'm sure he's doing an excellent job, and I hope he returns safely," Santorum said.

Shortly after Thursday's debate, gay Republican leaders and military advocates called for Santorum to condemn the audience members who jeered at the soldier. Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper called Santorum's lack of response "shameful," and added that his answer to the question posed was "incoherent and out of touch." Cooper, who is also an Iraq war combat veteran and current Army captain, added, "Santorum's divisive and homophobic remarks do not befit a commander in chief. Americans want to hear about how our next president is going to cut our national debt, advocate for a confident foreign policy, and most importantly help let the private sector thrive to create jobs."

GOProud leaders Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia issued a joint statement that demanded Santorum apologize to Hill.

"That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done — put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life," the statement read. "It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his antigay bigotry that he couldn't even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.

Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said no member of the armed services should be booed for expressing their personal views.

"I regret that this brave patriot was not defended last night in Orlando and that no candidate spoke up to say ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal has been settled by Congress and our nation’s senior military leaders — and is supported by more than eighty percent of the American people."













Watch video of the exchange, acquired by Equality Matters:

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