As all the broadcast network evening newscasts on Saturday used words like "historic" and "landmark" to play up the Senate vote in favor of repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on homosexuals serving in the military, the networks also provided substantially more soundbites to supporters of the measure than to those who opposed changing the policy.
On ABC, the lead report filed by correspondent David Kerley used soundbites from five supporters of lifting the ban, while only two soundbites featured opponents. Kerley began his report by quoting a "civil rights leader" calling Don't Ask, Don't Tell a "stain on our nation," and, after quoting President Obama's statement supporting the measure, immediately highlighted a former military service member who is gay. Kerley:
"A stain on our nation has been lifted," is how one civil rights leader put it tonight, and President Obama says, quote, "No longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans just because they are gay." This Senate vote was very personal for thousands of service members. Major Mike Almy served in Iraq but was discharged when the Air Force learned he was gay. He's been battling Don't Ask, Don't Tell ever since.
CBS's John Dickerson also brought up civil rights as he called the vote a "civil rights victory for the President," although he also uniquely used the term "liberals" to refer to some of the President's supporters who advocated the policy change. Dickerson:
Well, it's definitely a civil rights win for him, and it's a win politically with liberals in his party, and they've been angry with him. They were angry with him on this issue in particular because they felt like he wasn't pushing hard enough.
CBS correspondent Whit Johnson similarly gave more attention to supporters of lifting the ban, as soundbites from supporters outnumbered opponents three to one in his piece which was the lead report on the CBS Evening News.
On NBC, the lead report filed by correspondent Kelly O'Donnell featured five soundbites from supporters of lifting the ban, while only two featured opponents. She even noted that "A thrilled Senator Joe Lieberman called it the best day in his Senate career."
Her story was then followed up by a piece filed by Kevin Tibbles that focused on a retired member of the U.S. Navy who recently entered into a same-sex marriage and is happy that the policy has been lifted, although the report also included a couple of soundbites of those who opposed changing the policy.
And as the networks referred to recent public polls showing support for allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, only NBC noted that a substantial portion of the U.S. Army and the Marines oppose changing the policy. NBC's Tibbles related:
Most recent poll numbers show that 70 percent of America's troops feel the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will have mixed, positive or no effect. But among combat troops, numbers change dramatically: 48 percent of Army and 58 percent of combat Marines strongly oppose serving with gays.
Below are transcripts of the relevant stories from ABC's World News Saturday, the CBS Evening News, and the NBC Nightly News from Saturday December 18:
#From the December 18 World News on ABC:
DAVID MUIR, IN OPENING TEASER: I'm David Muir. Tonight on World News, the landmark vote in Washington. Don't Ask, Don't Tell, no longer. The Senate votes to repeal the 17-year-old law. Gays will openly serve in the military.
MUIR: Good evening on this Saturday. It is headed to the President tonight, and it's a landmark change for gay rights and for America's armed forces. Meeting in a rare Saturday session, the Senate today voted to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military for the first time in this nation's history. The vote was 65-31 to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which lets gays serve but only if they keep their sexuality a secret. The change doesn't take effect immediately, but this vote today means it is coming. David Kerley starts us off in Washington tonight. David, good evening.
DAVID KERLEY: Good evening, David. "A stain on our nation has been lifted," is how one civil rights leader put it tonight, and President Obama says, quote, "No longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans just because they are gay." This Senate vote was very personal for thousands of service members. Major Mike Almy served in Iraq but was discharged when the Air Force learned he was gay. He's been battling Don't Ask, Don't Tell ever since.
FORMER MAJOR MIKE ALMY, U.S. AIR FORCE: Wow. What a day. Long time in the making, a long, hard process.
KERLEY: Since Bill Clinton signed the law 17 years ago, gays have been banned from serving openly in the military. How times have changed.
SENATOR RON WYDEN (D-OR): Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a wrong that should never have been perpetrated.
KERLEY: Under the law, 14,000 service members have been discharged.
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): If you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you will repeal this corrosive policy.
SENATOR KARL LEVIN (D-MI): We cannot let these patriots down. Their suffering should end.
KERLEY: There was passionate opposition.
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): But in the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it.
KERLEY: Former Navy Pilot John McCain called this a sad day.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I hope that when we pass this legislation, that we will understand that we are doing great damage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE VOICE: Mr. Conrad, aye.
KERLEY: Eight Republicans joined Democrats, a vote made easier because, while some generals opposed repeal, the country's top military man and the Defense Secretary said it was time to end the policy.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This can be done and it should be done without posing a serious risk to military readiness.
KERLEY: And, as our ABC News poll showed just a week ago, 77 percent of Americans believe homosexuals should be allowed to serve. Discharged Army Lieutenant Dan Choi - who with others chained himself to the White House fence in protest - celebrated in a Tweet. Quote, "Today, we stand taller declaring, 'I am somebody.'" Choi told ABC News he wants to re-enlist. So does Mike Almy.
ALMY: I look forward to wearing the uniform once again of an officer of the United States Air Force. Thank you.
KERLEY: The White House says the President will sign the law next week. That doesn't mean immediate repeal. All the law does is give the Pentagon the ability to decide when it is ready to lift these restrictions. That could take several months. Some say it could take up to a year. David?
MUIR: David Kerley tonight starting us off.
#From the December 18 CBS Evening News:
ANTHONY MASON, IN OPENING TEASER: Tonight, a landmark vote. The Senate repeals Don't Ask, Don't Tell, clearing the way for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
MASON: Good evening. The United States Senate made history this afternoon voting to overturn the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law that prevented open military service by gays and lesbians. The new policy does not go into effect immediately, and opponents of the change fought it till the very end. Whit Johnson is in Washington tonight with the latest. Whit?
WHIT JOHNSON: Anthony, good evening. Not long ago, it looked like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell could be left on the floor of this lame duck Congress, but today the 17-year-old policy fought its last battle in the Senate.
SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-IN): 2965 is adopted.
JOHNSON: With 65 votes - eight of them Republican - the Senate voted to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): They want to put their lives on the line for our security and our freedom. Does it make any sense to say no to them?
HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Some have said this is not the time to repeal this policy. And they're right. It should have been yesterday.
JOHNSON: The Democratic argument to strike Don't Ask, Don't Tell got a boost from a recent Pentagon study in which two-thirds of American troops said changing the law would have little impact. Vocal opponents of the bill - led by Senator John McCain - pleaded against making such a dramatic change during two wars.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I've heard from thousands, thousands of active-duty and retired military personnel. I've heard from them. And they're saying, "Senator McCain, it isn't broke, and don't fix it."
JOHNSON: Today's vote is seen as a major victory for Democrats who are still reeling from a painful November election. The bill cleared the House with a strong majority Wednesday, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law next week. In a statement, the President said, "No longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love."
FORMER MAJOR MIKE ALMY, U.S. AIR FORCE: Wow, what a day.
JOHNSON: A number of those servicemen and women were on hand at the Capitol for the historic moment. More than 13, 000 have been kicked out of the military since the law was enacted in 1993, but this afternoon, they got the last word.
ALMY: Soon we can serve in the military without having to sacrifice our honor, our integrity, without having to lie every day about who we are.
JOHNSON: But change won't come overnight. Following the President's signature, the Pentagon will begin an implementation plan followed by a 60-day wait period. The Defense Secretary has said it could take up to a year before Don't Ask, Don't Tell is officially history. Anthony?
MASON: Whit Johnson in Washington. Thanks, Whit. On another issue, Senate Republicans today blocked consideration of the so-called Dream Act which would have offered a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children. To help us put today's Senate votes and the rest of the week in focus we're joined in Washington by political analyst John Dickerson. Good evening, John.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good evening, Anthony.
MASON: John, how does today's vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, how do you think it's going to affect perception of the President? Can we call this a win?
DICKERSON: Well, it's definitely a civil rights win for him, and it's a win politically with liberals in his party, and they've been angry with him. They were angry with him on this issue in particular because they felt like he wasn't pushing hard enough. But the White House view is that the President's calm deliberate pressure was what worked. He wanted the military to issue its report first. That would allow Congress to feel comfortable, so the White House is feeling like that strategy worked this time.
#From the December 18 NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT, IN OPENING TEASER: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history tonight, a landmark vote on gays in the military.
HOLT: Good evening. A landmark vote on Capitol Hill today appears to signal a new era in gay rights in this country while abolishing long-held military tradition and policy. The Senate late today voted to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy against gays serving openly in the military, meaning, for the first time, gays would be able to acknowledge their orientation without fear of being kicked out of the service. The bill now goes to the desk of President Obama, who earlier today expressed his eagerness to fulfill a campaign pledge to overturn the 17-year-old ban. We have correspondents covering the vote and reaction, and we start on Capitol Hill with NBC's Kelly O'Donnell. Kelly?
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Lester. This repeal was presumed dead so many times, even last week it seemed undoable. But today, everything changed. There was drama, surprise, and a sense of history on all sides. A day of change that began with deep convictions.
SENATOR KRISTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): If you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you will repeal this corrosive policy.
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Does anybody look at those graves and say move this one, because we just found out that soldier died in battle was gay?
O'DONNELL: And strong feelings among Republicans.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Army, the Air Force, particularly the Marine Corps have cautioned us not to do this now this way.
O'DONNELL: John McCain led opposition to ending the ban, saying that it would be a dangerous distraction during two wars.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): And there'll be high fives all over the liberal bastions of America, and we'll see the talk shows tomorrow, bunch of people talking about how great it is. Most of them never have served in the military.
O'DONNELL: The 17-year-old policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. About 14,000 men and women have been expelled.
SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): No one should be turned away because of who they are.
O'DONNELL: With momentum to change the law fueled by public opinion and support from top military brass, the political will shifted. After many past failed votes, today, one final shot. SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-IN): The yeas are 65, the nays 31.
O'DONNELL: For supporters, relief, victory and a surprise. Eight Republicans - more than expected - joined Democrats to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Maine Republican Susan Collins led the fight for repeal and won more GOP support.
SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE (R-ME): Seventeen years ago it was a Democratic President who signed into law Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so I think our society is changing.
O'DONNELL: A thrilled Senator Joe Lieberman called it the best day in his Senate career.
SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): We're still able to come together in a bipartisan way to right a wrong and do something that's in the best interests of our country.
O'DONNELL: And there is still one more step that could take several months for this to really be done. This law today says that the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs must certify that the military has taken all the steps internally to be ready to implement this change. Lester?
HOLT: Kelly O'Donnell, thanks. Tonight, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is applauding today's vote, and, in a statement, said as soon as the President signs the bill, the Pentagon will begin planning for the change. Meantime, those who have served under the existing ban are reflecting on what those changes mean for them. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
KEVIN TIBBLES: Retired U.S. Navy Captain Joan Dara and her partner Lynn were married last night, and, as they prepare to celebrate at a party this evening, they took time out to watch the Senate vote.
RETIRED CAPTAIN JOAN DARA, U.S. NAVY: There will always be this little fear in the back of my mind that somehow I would be outed and I was being called in to be told that my career was over.
TIBBLES: Dara, a former naval intelligence officer, says for nearly 20 years she could never share her relationship with military colleagues. And, ultimately, Don't Ask, Don't Tell influenced her retirement.
DARA: It's not right to make people hide part of their lives.
TIBBLES: Most recent poll numbers show that 70 percent of America's troops feel the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will have mixed, positive or no effect. But among combat troops, numbers change dramatically: 48 percent of Army and 58 percent of combat Marines strongly oppose serving with gays.
GENERAL JAMES AMOS, U.S. MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: The law has changed, successfully implementing repeal, and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level.
TIBBLES: At Galluping Gurdy's coffee shop just outside joint base, Lewis McCord, Seattle, opinions are mixed. Sergeant Marcus McGivney has recently served in Afghanistan.
SERGEANT MARCUS MCGIVNEY, U.S. MARINES: If you have homosexuals in combat arms, then it would be the same as having men and women working together.
TIBBLES: But retired soldier Steven Bendes says it's time for change.
STEVEN BENDES, RETIRED SOLDIER: I'm kind of happy that they repealed it.
DARA: I mean, there are gay people serving right now in every rank and every specialty, and I don't think it will be a big deal at all.
DARA: Goodbye, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
TIBBLES: For Joan, serving her country in the Navy was her life but not all of her life. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
HOLT: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, President Obama has long supported repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and, while it's taken longer for him to get it done than many of his supporters had hoped, the timing may give him a political boost. NBC's Mike Viqueira is at the White House with more tonight. Mike?
MIKE VIQUEIRA: Good evening, Lester. It's less than two months from that self-described electoral shellacking, but, in recent days, the President has had some unexpected success with help from some unlikely political allies. After he campaigned on a pledge to do away with Don't Ask, Don't Tell, supporters of repeal, many of them core Democratic voters, had grown frustrated with the President, accusing him of dragging his feet. Today, in a statement, Mr. Obama welcomed the breakthrough, saying it's "time to close this chapter in our history."
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Here we go. Okay.
VIQUEIRA: Passage comes the day after another Obama victory, the signing of a tax package negotiated with Republicans. ...
-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center