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Why the Carol Rosenberg Situation Shouldn't Be Dismissed So Easily: Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Media Bias

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As has been reported just about everywhere, U.S. Navy Commander Jeffrey D. Gordon sent a sexual harassment complaint to Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal about the behavior of the paper's Guantánamo Bay correspondent, Carol Rosenberg. 

Among using other choice words, Rosenberg allegedly asked Gordon the following: "Have you ever had a red-hot poker shoved up your a**? Have you ever had a broomstick shoved up your a**? Have you ever had anything in your a**? How would you know how it feels if it never happened to you? Admit it, you liked it? No wonder why you like to stay in South Beach on your Miami visits."

Now, I stopped feeling sorry for this guy when he said he was treated worse than the prisoners at Gitmo. Really, dude? Were you waterboarded? Were you imprisoned thousands of miles from your homeland with no idea how some bizarre kangaroo court would play out? But that's beside this particular point.  

Predictably, Rosenberg's press colleagues have come to her defense, most notably in a Washington Post story filed by Howard Kurtz. She might be a "very good" and "very aggressive" reporter, but there's no getting around the fact that the comments she's accused of making were unprofessional and offensive. 

Her "Ha! Ha! You take it up the ass, you gay!" comments are fifth-grade-playground juvenile, and implying someone is gay as an insult is just offensive. But this isn't an elementary-school playground. This is the military -- where, wait a second, it's forbidden to be openly gay. 

I'm not going to speculate on Commander Gordon's sexual orientation, so we'll have to wade into the murky world of the theoretical. 

So first, theoretically, if a military officer were gay and a journalist happened to find this out, it's not an impossible jump to think a journalist's homophobic taunts to this military officer could be construed as, "Listen, butt-boy, give me the information I want or I'll out you." Aggressive reporting, indeed. 

I'm not saying this is what's going on in the Rosenberg case, but it shows journalists should be extra-professional when dealing with the sexual identity of military officers, and that maybe foulmouthed Aunt Carol should get a little more than a wrist slap. Mostly, though, it just points to how dumb "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is. 

Second, and the argument that seems to have taken the strongest hold, is the whole "See, the media hates the military" angle. 

Yes, in the scheme of things, Commander Gordon's position as a spokesman makes him a flak -- the military equivalent of a publicist or PR person. This is the natural frenemy of the journalist. But the difference here is that Gordon happens to be a flak in uniform serving our country. 

Cue the "media bias"-shouting wingnut blog crowd, which in this case might actually have a point. 

Newsbuster, which is always patently ridiculous (and in this case is flat-out wrong in saying there's a lawsuit involved) simply says, "apparently Carol Rosenberg really hates the U.S. military!" A number of other blogs have also jumped on this angle. 

Again, I have no idea if Rosenberg "hates the U.S. military," but blatantly disrespecting an officer sure doesn't help quell the wingnut crowd. 

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