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CNN Defends Clinton Query

11/30/2007 07:00:00 PM Eastern

CNN issued a statement Thursday defending the decision to allow a retired brigadier general who had been on a gay-and-lesbian steering committee for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to pose a question about gays in the military at its YouTube debate last week.

“The whole point of these ground-breaking CNN/YouTube debates is to focus on substantive questions of concern to real people and to throw open the process to a wider range of Americans all around the country. CNN cared about what you asked, not who you were. This was the case for both the Democratic and the Republican CNN/YouTube debates,” the network said in a statement.

Keith Kerr, 76, a retired general with the California National Guard, asked the Republican candidates if they thought U.S. military personnel were professional enough to serve alongside gay and lesbian counterparts. Kerr is a well-known gay activist who has challenged the military's don't-ask, don't-tell policy.

Sam Feist, political director for CNN, said the network vetted Kerr's military credentials and made sure he had not donated to any of the current candidates' campaigns. He stressed that it was YouTube, not CNN, which invited Kerr to be in the auditorium during the debate.

“We obviously missed the fact that he was on a list of people on a steering committee,” Feist said. “His was a particularly sensitive question. And I think that is why this became such a sensitive issue.”

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