Clinton 'Not Aware' of 'Gay' Debate Question, Group Says

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign played no part in and had no knowledge of a question asked by one of her advisors in the Nov. 28 Republican presidential debate that has sparked a firestorm of criticism from conservatives, according to the activist group affiliated with the questioner.

Retired Gen. Keith Kerr posed a question for the CNN/YouTube-sponsored debate, in which everyday Americans were supposed to have a chance to ask questions of the candidates via videos submitted through YouTube and selected by CNN.

Kerr, a 43-year Army veteran who "came out" as homosexual in 2003, asked the Republican candidates why they think American service members can't serve with openly homosexual people.

Conservative bloggers and other debate-watchers pointed out that Kerr is an advisor and supporter of Clinton's presidential campaign. Clinton, a New York Democrat, opposes the ban on homosexuals in the military. The backlash warranted an apology from CNN, which removed the question from re-airings of the debate.

The controversy also sparked speculation that the Clinton campaign had a hand in "planting" the question. The campaign had previously come under fire for planting questions in the audience at Clinton's public appearances.

But the controversy is "completely manufactured" and "blown completely out of proportion," according to Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

The SLDN advocates for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law barring homosexuals from serving in the military. Kerr is a member of the SLDN's military advisory council.

"He did not in any way coordinate with Sen. Clinton on the question that was posed last night," Ralls told Cybercast News Service Thursday. "Sen. Clinton was not aware that the question was going to be in the debate."

Ralls acknowledged that Kerr "does support [Clinton's] campaign; however, it is ludicrous to assume that someone who supports one candidate is not eligible to ask another candidate about their position on the issues."

"Gen. Kerr is a decorated Army officer with 43 years of experience," Ralls said. "His question was a serious one, and it's disappointing that some have tried to distract from his stellar question at last night's debate."

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