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A coalition of organizations is leading the charge to make sure the road to repealing "don't ask, don't tell" is not fraught with myths and lies.
The group, including representatives from Media Matters, the National Security Network, and Servicemembers United, issued an open letter Wednesday to the news media demanding fair coverage on the "don't ask, don't tell" proceedings.
Before the letter was released, news watchdog Media Matters released a list debunking nine myths related to coverage of the ban. Many of the arguments echo those made when Congress first considered the ban under President Bill Clinton in 1993, including the claim that allowing gays to serve would expose service members to HIV.
The full letter follows on the next page.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has announced he will be the chief sponsor of legislation to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law. The proposed repeal signifies a crucial step forward in the long-overdue process of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve honestly and proudly in the United States armed services.
Since its inception, the "don't ask, don't tell" law has resulted in the firing of at least 13,500 servicemembers and has reportedly cost the military an estimated $555.2 million. Allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly has proven successful for many of our closest allies and enjoys broad support in the United States among the public and top military leaders alike, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and former Joint Chiefs Chairmen Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. John Shalikashvili.
"Don't ask, don't tell" proponents too often paint a distorted picture of what a repeal would mean. Today, Media Matters for America released a comprehensive review detailing how opinion pages and cable news talk shows have been flooded with falsehoods and anti-gay rhetoric to support the dubious argument that "don't ask, don't tell"is working.
Myths that repealing "don't ask, don't tell" would adversely affect unit cohesion, retention, or the HIV rate among servicemembers are not based in reality. Similarly, the anti-gay rhetoric permeating many of these arguments only serves to cheapen the national discussion on this important issue.
Because news outlets continue to repeat these outrageous myths, a coalition of organizations is banding together to combat misinformation about the "don't ask, don't tell" law. As Congress moves forward on this legislation, we will be vigilant in ensuring that news reports are accurate and fair. The public deserves an honest debate -- not one marred by blatant falsehoods and anti-gay attacks.
Media Matters president Eric Burns
AMERICAblog editor John Aravosis
Courage Campaign founder & chairman Rick Jacobs
GLAAD president Jarrett T. Barrios
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese
Knights Out chair Becky Kanis
National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey
National Security Network executive director Heather Hurlburt
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's Aubrey Sarvis
Servicemembers United's Alex Nicholson
Truman National Security Project's Rachel Kleinfeld
VoteVets' Jon Soltz
Lt. Dan Choi, US Army Infantry Officer and Arabic Linguist