U.S. Army first lieutenant Dan Choi appeared on The Rachel Maddow Sho w on Thursday to discuss his dismissal under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The appearance marked Choi's first interview since receiving word this week of his discharge for announcing in March that he is gay.
Choi, a West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran, and Arab linguist, told Maddow that he felt "extremely angry" when he received the discharge letter, primarily because of the implied insult to his unit's professionalism. He reiterated that sentiment on Friday on CNN's American Morning.
Choi told Maddow that after he announced his sexual orientation on her MSNBC program on March 19, members of his New York Army National Guard unit told him, "We know and we don't care. What we care about is, can you contribute to the team."
Choi vowed to fight the charges against him, saying, "Don't lie. Don't hide. Don't discriminate. Don't weaken the military."
An in-demand Arab linguist, Choi is precisely the kind of service member that Barack Obama, speaking as a presidential candidate, cautioned against firing in an exclusive April 2008 interview with The Advocate 's Kerry Eleveld.
"But I think there's increasing recognition within the armed forces that this is a counterproductive strategy -- ya know, we're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need," candidate Obama said at the time.
"That doesn't make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology," Obama said.
On Thursday, Maddow presented what she called the latest "tangible evidence of President Obama's personal stance on the issue." This week, the president sent a handwritten reply to Sandy Tsao, a U.S. Army lieutenant who wrote a letter urging him to repeal the ban after she came out in January.
"It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy," Obama wrote. "Although it will take some time to complete, partly because it needs congressional action, I intend to fulfill my commitment." However, others contend that Obama has the authority to suspend "don't ask, don't tell" without congressional approval. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes that Obama can issue an executive order to suspend the policy.