DADT Coverage Update

June 1, 2010
Following Friday’s House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committee votes in favor of adding language to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to the National Defense Authorization Act, national media outlets have continued to report on the progress of this legislation and the opinions of officials and major stakeholders. The majority of reporting has remained fair and accurate, with coverage of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen appearing on several morning shows to express both his wish that Congress had waited to receive the results of the Pentagon’s working group study on Dec 1 before proposing repeal legislation, and his satisfaction with the compromise language as it currently stands in the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. However, a front page New York Times article published on May 28th(“As ‘Don’t Ask’ Fades, Military Faces Thorny Issues”) has raised concerns among LGBT rights advocates that some mainstream media outlets are uncritically promoting a view that repealing DADT would be overly difficult in terms of integrating openly gay service members into the military. On May 29, The Palm Center in Santa Barbara, California issued a press release criticizing media reports which legitimize “the fear tactics of anti-gay obstructionists with uncritical reporting about gay troop disruptions.” The Times article, which also problematically referred to lesbian and gay service members as ‘homosexuals,’ and improperly described “a host of thorny practical questions” that will face Congress and the Pentagon in the wake of any DADT repeal, when there is zero evidence that any practical difficulty would be caused by the transition. The Palm Center pointed out that outlets, such as the Times in this instance, have “presented as fact what is actually a tactic” by opponents to keep DADT in place. Another obstacle to the passage of DADT repeal legislation being picked up by reporters is the possibility that President Obama will veto the final National Defense Authorization Bill (despite his support for the DADT repeal language that it carries) because of his strong opposition to its concurrent inclusion of funding for costly alternate F-35 fighter jet engines in the budget. GLAAD will continue to monitor media coverage of the DADT debate and reach out to news outlets that miss the mark.  Updates can be found on Anna Wipfler, GLAAD’s Transgender Advocacy Fellow, contributed to this report.