ProPublica catches a curious editing job to the White House’s civil rights issues Web page that hints at a previously unknown shift to reform the controversial Defense Dept. policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” than a promised repeal of the onerous law that prohibits openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the military.
UPDATE 5/4/2009: Greg Sargent at The Plum Line and ProPublica have confirmed that the White House restored the original “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language to its Web site.
Compare the Feb. 12 version (in pink) under the subhead “Support for the LGBT community” to the most recent update on May 1 (in green) buried in the “Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Laws” section:
According to ProPublica, the message is clear. The whitehouse.gov previously said, “We need to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” The new version of the page says that the president “supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security.”
In January, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, “Is the new administration going to get rid of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy?” Gibbs proudly gave a one-word answer, “Yes.”
In March, Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed to back away from that stance. When asked by Fox News about “don’t ask don’t tell,” he said, “I feel like we’ve got a lot on our plates right now.”
The latest changes on whitehouse.gov seem to further that hedge — and make it the White House position.
ProPublica has called the White House for their comment.