Santorum Says He "Didn't Hear" Audience Members Boo Gay Soldier, But Condemns Them; Perry and Romney Don't

It was one of the more jarring moments in Thursday night’s debate. Stephen Hill, a U.S. Army soldier serving in Iraq, asked whether he, as a gay American, would be able to continue serving if one of these Republican candidates won. Some in the audience booed, and Rick Santorum slammed the Obama administration for giving gay and lesbian troops “a special privilege,” which would end under a Santorum presidency.

The former senator did not, however, have anything to say during the debate about the ugly audience reaction. Yesterday, in a Fox News interview, Santorum was willing to do the right thing.

“I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier. That soldier is serving our country. I thank him for his service to our country. I’m sure he’s doing an excellent job. I hope he’s safe and I hope he returns safely and does his mission well.

“I have to admit, I seriously did not hear those boos. Had I heard them, I certainly would have commented on them, but, as you know, when you’re in that sort of environment, you’re sort of focused on the question and formulating your answer. I just didn’t hear those couple of boos that were out there, but certainly had I, I would have said, ‘Don’t do that. This man is serving our country and we are to thank him for his service.’”

That’s a perfectly good answer. It may not be entirely truthful — other candidates said they heard the boos — and it doesn’t make up for Santorum’s awful substantive response to the question, but I’m glad he’s at least willing to condemn those booing a serviceman who’s putting his life on the line for the United States. It is, quite literally, the least he should do.

But what about the rest of the Republican field? Yesterday, Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson, to their credit, also denounced those who booed Hill, albeit a day late. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, however, refused requests for comment.

I don’t expect much from guys like Romney and Perry, and neither are likely to ever get a Profile in Courage award nomination any time soon, but if leading presidential candidates aren’t willing to stand up for an Army soldier serving honorably in Iraq, who will they stand up for?

Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen | Sourced from

Posted at September 24, 2011, 5:16am

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