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Posted on Apr 1, 2010 Print this Article

Failed Attack on Flag & General Officers for the Military

A gay activist group affiliated with the radical Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has tried but failed to weaken the impact of the Flag & General Officers for the Military (FGOM) statement supporting the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military.  Given the weight and influence of the FGOM statement, released one year ago, it is not surprising that homosexualists have launched a dishonest attack on the statement, citing a biased PBS network program that aired unsupported charges. 

The formidable FGOM statement, personally signed by more than 1,050 retired flag and general officers, was delivered to President Barack Obama, senior members of Congress, and Pentagon officials on March 31, 2009.  The unprecedented open letter expressed unequivocal support for current law and opposition to any action to repeal or weaken it, causing adverse effects for   recruiting, retention, and overall readiness that eventually would “break the All-Volunteer Force.”    

The FGOM statement effectively stalled the momentum for legislation to repeal the 1993 law, Section 654, Title 10, U.S.C., which is frequently mislabeled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Since then the number of signers has climbed to 1,164, including 51 four-star generals and admirals.  

The Center for Military Readiness, which provided administrative support for the successful project, included on the list only the names of retired generals and admirals who had received, personally signed, and returned the statement by regular mail, not e-mail.  

The anticipated attack on the FGOM list began in June 2009, on the PBS network’s network’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  At the time the Human Rights Campaign was launching a high-profile gays in the military campaign (GIMC), together with several LGBT Left (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered) groups who celebrated President Obama’s declaration of June 2009 as “LGBT Equality” month in the White House.  

The multi-million dollar campaign, organized with an affiliated group called Servicemembers United (SU), featured media events in several cities that showcased former military personnel who had been discharged for homosexuality.  Producer Dan Sagalyn was responsible for the June Lehrer NewsHour program segment, which presented several former servicemembers promoting repeal of the 1993 law.  (Retired Lt. Gen. Charles Baldwin, a former Air Force chief of chaplains who supports the 1993 law, also appeared on the program.)  

During the program introduced by Judy Woodruff, reporter Ray Suarez took a shot at the FGOM list with gratuitous insinuations and unsupported claims.  Suarez mentioned that some of the FGOM signers were “dead”—implying that the FGOM Steering Committee had acted like Chicago politicians counting the ballots of deceased voters. The script further alleged that a four-star officer had told the NewsHour that he did not know why his name was on the FGOM list.  

PBS:  “That’s Our Story and We’re Stickin’ To It”  

On July 16 former Marine Commandant Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., one of the FGOM list Steering Committee organizers, wrote a personal, overnight-delivered letter to program host Jim Lehrer.  Mundy informed Lehrer that some of the listed generals and admirals were deceased, but they had signed the statement prior to their death.  In addition, Mundy noted that the widow of one general had conveyed the wishes of her recently-deceased husband by signing with power-of-attorney.  Her statement was referenced in a footnote next to that general’s name.

           Gen. Mundy’s letter also contested the reporter’s claim that an unnamed four-star officer told the Lehrer NewsHour that he did not want his name on the FGOM list.  Because all signatures had been received by regular mail and remained on file, the unsupported claim could not be true.  Even though CMR President Elaine Donnelly had spent considerable time assisting Sagalyn in what she expected to be a fair program, the producer did not bother to check with her in order to resolve the alleged discrepancy.  

In a July 27 reply to Gen. Mundy reflecting both arrogance and bias, senior NewsHour producer Linda Winslow stated that the program “stood by” the story, and claimed that “no corrections are necessary.”  Only after CMR sent photo copies of all 51 four-star officer statements, together with the postmarked envelopes used by since-deceased officers, did the NewsHour correct the transcript to withdraw the first insinuation but not the second.  The unsatisfactory partial correction repeated the still-unsupported charge that an unnamed four-star general had not authorized his name for inclusion on the FGOM list.  

In an Aug. 10 letter to Jim Lehrer, Elaine Donnelly asked three logical questions about the alleged four-star signer.  In particular, “Does this person know how CMR received his signature if he did not send it?”  Secondly, “Has he requested anonymity, or was it the producer’s idea to withhold his name?”  Finally, “If it was the general’s idea, why would a four-star officer want his name to remain on the Flag and General Officers for Military list supporting a cause with which he does not agree?”  

Despite repeated follow-ups, Lehrer NewsHour refused to identify the phantom general, or to respond to Donnelly’s questions.  The stonewalling made no sense since there was no need to protect a confidential “source.”  The only remedy needed to resolve the problem was to provide the name of the alleged four-star general so that CMR could accommodate his apparent change of heart by dropping his name from the FGOM list.  

Gay Activists Launch Attack

Nine months later, the Servicemembers United group used the still-unretracted statement on the Lehrer NewsHour website to attack the credibility of the entire Flag & General Officers for the Military list.  A thin, largely-unnoticed “report” released on March 4 and publicized by a former reporter for the now-defunct gay newspaper Washington Blade made three basic allegations: The FGOM list included several unauthorized names, the signers were too old, and a few signers had blemishes on their records.

The gay activists’ attack failed on all three points, starting with unsupported allegations made in the June 2009 Lehrer NewsHour, explained above.  

FGOM List Younger 

The SU’s sophomoric examination of 200 cherry-picked names out of 1,164 on the FGOM list exaggerated the ages of the signatories, and stooped to attack the credibility of a grieving widow in order to push their gays in the military cause.  The attack prompted CMR to do a detailed analysis comparing the FGOM list to a highly-publicized but much smaller roster compiled by the gay activist University of California-based Michael D. Palm Center 

Several times in 2008 the Palm Center released short lists of mostly lower-ranking officers and a handful of former civilian leaders calling for repeal of the 1993 law, which eventually accumulated 104 names.  That list, since increased to 115, appears on the website of Brant Shalikashvili, son of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili, who has worked on retired military projects for the Palm Center.  

As shown here on three tables, CMR compared the largest service group of signers on the FGOM list (698 Army generals, or 60%) with the current Palm Center/Shalikashvili list (96 Army generals, or 83%).  (See Table 1)

As illustrated on the bar graph below, based on known retirement dates, it turns out that the FGOM group of Army signatories served more recently (based on date of retirement) and therefore are younger on average than the 115 retired officers calling for repeal:  

List Comparison of Retired Army Generals

For example, as shown on Table 2, more than 50% (355) of the FGOM Army officers retired in the 1990s, compared to 29% (28) on the Palm Center/Shalikashvili list who retired in that decade.  Almost 30% (208) on the FGOM list retired in the 2000s (so far), compared to 19% (18) on the Palm list.  Furthermore, only 1.7% of the FGOM list retired in the 1970s, compared to 16.7% of those on the Palm Center/Shalikashvili list. 

Table 3 answers the charge that the FGOM list under-represents officers who were in command after the 1993 law was passed.  Almost 57% (397) of the FGOM Army generals were in that category, compared to 30% (29) on the Palm list.  

The Servicemembers United slash-attack included remarks about a few signatories whose names reflected past controversies.  A CBS “60 Minutes” program, for example, took out of context statements made by General Carl Mundy—an experience shared by many public figures.  Mundy remains one of the Marine Corps’ most respected former Commandants.  He served as head of the USO from 1996-2000, and continues many volunteer and charitable activities in support of military families. 

Servicemembers United also targeted retired Rear Adm. Riley Mixson, USN (Ret.), who headed the Navy’s air campaign in the first Persian Gulf War.  Mixson had received a letter of censure due to the actions of others at the 1991 Tailhook Convention.  But in January 2003, then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England convened a Board of Review to consider Mixson’s case.  The Board concluded that the letter of censure should be removed from the record.  Secretary England concurred, and the record was corrected on January 27, 2003.  

Allegations (not evidence) against a few others on the FGOM list appear inconsequential and too obscure to matter.  Most of the 1,164 signers are active in business and community volunteer pursuits, showing leadership in the civilian world as they did when they served in uniform.

Return of the Phantom General

Citing the still-uncorrected Lehrer NewsHour program, SU claimed that they had spoken to three retired generals who said they had not authorized their names to be included on the FGOM list.  The unsupported claim, embellishing the one made by PBS in June 2009, raised questions about the network’s evident bias in favor of the cause being pushed by the gay activist group, Servicemembers United.  

Cybercast News Service, (, an affiliate of the watchdog group Media Resource Center, recently submitted questions about the issue to senior producers of the Lehrer NewsHour program. In an e-mailed reply to reporter Fred Lucas, Dan Sagalyn “stood by” the program transcript, adding, “When we produced this story we spoke to a lot of people at a lot of different groups in order to understand the landscape of views on this issue.  I don't have any recollection or record of talking to people at[the SU] organization.”

Sagalyn further wrote, “The four-star general asked for anonymity.  Many of the four star generals we called to see if they would appear in our story refused to do so because they did not want to be ‘out in front on this issue.’ ”  He added, “They didn't want to do anything that would call attention to themselves.”  
             The peculiar statement dissembled, since the understandable reluctance of four-star officers to appear on the Lehrer NewsHour is not enough to support the claim that a particular general did not want his name to be on the FGOM list. 

Sagalyn’s carefully written non-response and the unsatisfactory Lehrer NewsHour “clarification” continue to perpetuate an unsupported statement that is contradicted by tangible evidence.  It is not clear whether the NewsHour producer considered Servicemembers United to be a source, but we do know that the gay activist group is using PBS to document  false allegations.  This is an example of liberal group irresponsibility and media bias at its worst.  

( tried repeatedly to get a comment on the story from Servicemembers United, but authors of the SU report did not answer the reporter’s phone calls or e-mails.)

It is not surprising that gay activists would try to discredit a formidable group of retired military leaders, but their dishonest attack has failed to blunt the FGOM statement’s clear message to President Obama and Members of Congress:  

“As a matter of national security, we urge you to support the 1993 law regarding homosexuals in the military (Section 654, Title 10) and to oppose any legislative, judicial or administrative effort to repeal or invalidate the law.” 

The Flag & General Officers’ statement and the complete list of names appears in a new book published by the Air Force University Press, titled Attitudes Aren’t Free: Thinking Deeply About Diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces.  The statement remains compelling, and Congress should take the distinguished military leaders’ advice.

March 31, 2010

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Posted on Apr 1, 2010 Print this Article