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Moderate Republicans condemn debate crowd booing of Iraq-stationed soldier

At Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Florida, a gay soldier serving in Iraq was booed by the audience because he asked a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. None of the candidates on stage came to his defense.

After the debate, many moderate Republicans spoke out against the audience’s behavior including Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kriesel who called those who booed “morons.”

Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq, asked the candidates what they would do with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if they took over the White House. As he did, the audience booed, and Santorum responded that he would reinstate DADT.

Santorum overlooked that a soldier serving in Iraq during a time of war had been disrespected by the audience. That drew a sharp rebuke from Republicans who support LGBT members of the Armed Forces.

“Tonight, Rick Santorum disrespected our brave men and women in uniform, and he owes Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked him the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, an immediate apology,” said a statement from GOProud, a conservative gay rights group aligned with the tea party. “That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done – put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life. It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.

Minnesota state Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove) condemned the incident.

He wrote on Twitter:

“Booing a soldier during a time of war?!? A new low. Way to look compassionate Florida Republicans. #morons”

He added:

“If someone is brave enough to risk their life and serve their country in a time of war, let them serve. Who cares if they are gay?!?! How many of those people in the audience at the GOP debate that booed the gay soldier serving in Afghanistan are brave enough to serve??”

Only two of the candidates spoke out against it Thursday night.

“It was unfortunate,” Jon Huntsman told Talking Points Memo. “You know, we’re all Americans, and the fact that he is an American who put on the uniform says something good about him.”

Gary Johnson said, “In my opinion, when you have booing this is not indicative of Republicans,” he said. “This is not the Republican Party that I belong to.”

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