Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) didn’t like what he heard when he was finally allowed to join a Republican presidential debate last week, saying audience members’ boos of a gay service member were “very wrong.” Speaking with MSNBC host Al Sharpton Friday, Johnson said he had a hard time resisting the urge to “pound” his fist in anger at the jeers, but held back because he was afraid he wouldn’t be asked back:
JOHNSON: I was champing at the bit to be able to respond to that [the boos]. And, you know, in retrospect, I regret maybe not putting my fist down and pounding it, but I’ve been excluded from these debates and I’m feeling a bit like I’m walking on eggshells.
I shouldn’t have done that. If I have one regret from last evening, it’s that I didn’t stand up and say, you know, you’re booing a U.S. serviceman who is denied being able to express his sexual preference? That’s not right. That’s not right, and there’s something very, very wrong with that.
Johnson added that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should have been repealed “a long time ago” and went on to condemn the other instances of morbid applause at the GOP debates. Johnson said he was taken back by cheering for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) oversight of more than 230 executions, saying, “I don’t think there’s any question that we put innocent people to death.” He added:
JOHNSON: And talking about health care and “Let him die!” no, that’s not this country. We’re a country of compassion. These are the people that we want to help. I’m in the camp that really believes that government perhaps is the only entity that`s available for those that are truly in need.
Fellow long-shot candidate Rick Santorum has also condemned the boos at last week’s debate, but claimed he couldn’t hear them from the stage. Johnson’s comments cast doubt on that, as he clearly did. So far, front-runners Mitt Romney and Perry have failed to speak out against the jeers.