The US Air Force Academy was already facing growing accusations that they lied in a press release about a recent meeting in which multiple gay cadets expressed concerns to the superintendent of the academy, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, about the academy’s anti-gay culture.
Today we learned that the academy will hold a press conference this afternoon with three hand-picked gay cadets and the officer who claimed, incredibly, that no one expressed any concerns at the earlier meeting, Capt. Michelle L. Reinstatler, when in fact we know the overwhelming majority of cadets in attendance did.
To be entirely accurate, Reinstatler did say the gay cadets had one concern. Namely, that all these stories about the academy having an anti-gay culture might hurt recruitment at the academy.
In other words, if you’re a gay cadet being harassed or discriminated against at the US Air Force academy, STFU.
Oddly, since Reinstatler claimed no cadet expressed any concerns about anti-gay problems at the academy, multiple sources with direct knowledge of what took place at the meeting say the opposite in fact occurred.
Most of the cadets in attendance expressed concerns about homophobia in cadet culture and from fellow cadets, according to our sources.
Yet, following the meeting, the academy issued a press release, quoting Reinstatler, and flushing all the gay cadets and their concerns down the memory hole.
In a story that is looking increasingly like the military command’s poor handling of sexual harassment claims, in which such claims are frowned up and then investigated by the very chain of command that was responsible for not taking the claims seriously in the first place, the Air Force Academy has clearly dug in and decided to simply deny, and cover up, the problem entirely.
What’s worse, however, is the academy conspiring to mislead the public, and the Pentagon, Congress and the White House about what amounts to an EEO- sexual-harassment/civil rights- type claim.
That raises concerns not just about the future of such complaints at the academy (a future that is nonexistent at this point), but it also means that senior members of the academy committed at least one violation, if not more, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military regulations tend to frown upon conspiracies to cover up (and outright lie about) anything, let alone harassment and/or civil rights complaints.
This entire story began earlier this week with the news that the Air Force Academy had hired a man with 20 years experience “curing homosexuals” and instilling them with “heterosexual confidence” in charge of overseeing the academy’s “character” and “leadership” coaching program that is required for every cadet.
In response to that story, and its mention of the fact that many gay cadets feel the academy has some anti-gay issues in its culture, the head of the academy, General Johnson, called a meeting with about two dozen gay cadets, and with her senior staff present, asked the undergraduates if they had a problem. Most of the cadets in attendance, according to multiple sources, and contrary to Reinstatler’s quote in the Air Force’s official press release, did in fact express concerns to Johnson and those in attendance.
Now, in the corporate world, imagine what would happen if the CEO of IBM, for example, sitting with his top staff in attendance, called in an 18 year old secretary, just hired this past year, who had expressed concerns about being sexually harassed. How comfortable do you think the junior staffer might be about expressing their concerns about mistreatment in the workplace to the CEO and his top staff? Then imagine how comfortable the low-level staffer would be after the company issues a press release saying that if you express concerns about sexual harassment you’re hurting the company. Oh, and in that same release, they tell the world that you expressed no concerns. Are you going to speak up again? Doubtful.
What began as a story about one bizarre hire at the Air Force Academy has now turned into a story about corruption and cover-up, and a culture of anti-gay bias at the academy that appears to go all the way to top, to General Johnson herself – who after all is responsible for the academy’s press release yesterday denying what actually happened at her own meeting.
We all had such high hopes when President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But now those hopes are sinking.
We’re already dealing with a number of states in the south who are refusing to recognize the same-sex spouses of gay US service members. Then we had the news this week that a base in California refused to let a married gay couple attend a US military sponsored couples retreat. And now we have the US Air Force Academy, the place where the US Air Force’s elite officer corps is groomed, involved in a conspiracy to cover up anti-gay bias at the institution.
If you thought Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was gone for good, you are sadly mistaken.