Last Friday, Bill O’Reilly hosted a panel discussion about such hot “culture warrior” issues as President Obama’s call for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and CBS’s decision to run a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl. During the DADT portion, O’Reilly asked “does anybody care about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ anymore’ and opined that “the only way I care about this is if the military brass would say, ‘look in our culture, with the military recruiting mostly conservative people…they’re not comfortable with openly gay people in the barracks.”
“It’s not about anti-gay,” he insisted. “It’s about being comfortable in the barracks. It’s not about anti-gay. I’ve seen polling that shows that most military people just don’t want openly gay people”:
OREILLY: I never objected to Bill Clinton’s vision, that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was okay. Just don’t talk about it. And don’t be coming out or whatever.
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While it’s unclear if O’Reilly’s concerns have been assuaged by the testimonies of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen or the opinion polls that suggest that a majority of conservative families who attend church at least once a week actually support the repeal, his argument that deliberately hiding one’s sexuality somehow improves morale does not hold up to real world experience.
As Danny Kaplan notes in this Foreign Policy magazine article about Israel’s successful integration of openly gay and lesbian troops into the armed forces, “Despite what military officials want to ask or insist on not asking, and despite what gay activists want soldiers to tell about their sexuality, most straight soldiers are not interested in hearing it, and many gay soldiers are not interested in telling it. They simply are what they are and find ways to function together. Policies restricting the participation of gay soldiers paradoxically make sexuality a more salient issue.” “The paradox is that when gays are allowed in the military, but not allowed to identify as such, everyone becomes suspected of being gay,” Kaplan writes. “It is no wonder that a rise in sexual harassment and homophobic crimes have been reported in the U.S. military ever since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was introduced.”
Former Army officer Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal DADT — believes that O’Reilly argument — the idea that straight troops are just “not comfortable with openly gay people” — is really suggesting that American service members are “less professional and less mission capable than service members of other foreign militaries,” like Israel and 24 other nations. “As a former army officer that’s an insult to me and to many of the soldiers,” he said during a recent hearing.