There are fears that a survey being conducted by the Pentagon could be used to out gays and have them expelled from the military. Stephen Colbert called the study "bait and snitch" Monday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tasked the study with finding out the opinions of gay service members but under the current 'don't ask, don't tell' policy gays must keep their sexuality secret. Gen. Carter F. Ham is leading the study. He told The Washington Post that the Pentagon would probably use a third-party firm who would not disclose the identities of those polled.
Ham said the survey would have to occur at arm's length for practical and legal reasons. "We know that a serving Department of Defense official, especially one in uniform, cannot be the one to do this," he said. If a gay soldier "were to disclose to me their sexuality," he added, "then I'd almost certainly be required to pursue that" by opening a formal investigation that could lead to discharge.
In his "The Word" segment Monday, Stephen Colbert took on the controversy. "I've always said the greatest danger facing America is that homosexuals want to defend it," Colbert joked.
"You see, liberals question every decision they make. As a liberal, Obama's first needs to study the effects of repealing 'don't ask, don't tell.' But to study the effects, he needs to know how many gays in the military and how the gays are feeling," explained Colbert.
"As part of this overall effort, Army secretary John McHugh announced he had conducted informal discussions with troops about 'don't ask, don't tell.' Assuring them anything they said would be kept confidential because, as he told reporters, 'What I'm trying to show the troops that, yes, it's okay to talk about this.'" reported Colbert.
"Well, funny story. Turns out it's not okay to talk about this," Colbert continued. "It's actually against the exact law they are thinking about overturning. Who knew?"
"I just felt it would be counterproductive . . . to take disciplinary action against someone who spoke openly and honestly," McHugh said.
Only days later, McHugh was forced to take back that offer of amnesty, saying his remarks were "incorrect."
"I was incorrect when I stated that (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one," he said.
"To get around this legal snafu, the Army is employing a third-party polling company. Of course, there's some concern that polling gay troops in and of itself sounds gay," quipped Colbert.
"Now, what is important is that now gay troops can tell this third party that they are gay, secure in the knowledge that that information will be perfectly safe because we know that whenever the military ploys outside contractors nothing goes wrong and no one tells lies," Colbert observed as logos for Blackwater, Halliburton and KBR flashed on the screen.
But Colbert saw a benefit in leaking the identity of gay troops to the Pentagon. "That's even better because then we can kick them all out and repeal 'don't ask don't tell,'" said Colbert.
"Because, you have to admit, once the gays are all gone, it will seem like a pretty outdated policy," he concluded.
This video is from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, broadcast April 5, 2010.