Air Force Academy now covering up cadet’s concerns about anti-gay climate

The United States Air Force Academy issued a statement this morning claiming that at a recent meeting with the academy’s top brass, gay cadets expressed no concerns about the culture at the Air Force Academy being in any way unwelcoming to gay cadets.

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of what took place at the meeting say that today’s statement from the Air Force Academy does not accurately reflect what transpired, and that a number of concerns were in fact raised by gay cadets with academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson and her top staff.

The academy alleged that gay cadets said they “do not feel like the Air Force Academy culture inhibits them in any way,” and that the academy offers “extensive support” for gay cadets.  In fact, concerns had been raised, even before the meeting, about additional “support” the academy could provide to improve the culture for gay cadets.

The academy’s statement went on to allege that the only worry gay cadets have is that the negative reports in the media about their plight might hurt future recruitment at the academy.

In fact, the sources add that the gay cadets did not express any concerns about the media reports hurting recruitment.

I have asked to speak to two cadets who attended the meeting, and the Air Force Academy says they are considering my request.

Academy calls meeting with gay cadets after AMERICAblog “ex-gay” story

The meeting with gay cadets was called after AMERICAblog broke a story earlier this week about the Air Force Academy having hired an “ex-gay” “hetersexual confidence” coach, with nearly two decades experience “curing homosexuals” and working for religious right anti-gay groups, as the head of the academy’s character and leadership coaching program.

In our initial story we also noted that “while some gay cadets say they are having no problem fitting in, others in recent interviews describe a ‘nightmare’ where ‘extreme homophobes’ are ‘outspoken and proud about it.’  They add that little happens to correct the character and leadership deficiencies of homophobic cadets at the academy.”

In response to concerns raised in that piece, and elsewhere, about the overall culture at the academy being less-than-optimal for many gay cadets, the general running the Air Force Academy, and several of her top staff, met with the academy’s LGBT group, Spectrum, in order to ascertain if there was a problem.

From the Academy’s statement this morning:

Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, Superintendent of the US Air Force Academy

Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, Superintendent of the US Air Force Academy

Regarding the allegations saying the Air Force’s Academy not being a welcoming place for LGBQ cadets, The Academy Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, along with the Commandant of Cadets, Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, and the Dean of the Faculty, Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, and Dr. Hans Mueh (Brig. Gen, ret.) Athletic Director recently met with Spectrum, the Academy’s affinity group for LGBQ cadets.

Academy falsely denies gay cadets expressed concerns, then blames the victim

Putting aside for a moment the appropriateness of having the boss of the entire company call in the lowest level employees, who are barely out of high school, to meet with her and her top staff, to ask if it’s true that they’re being harassed on the job – it puts them in a horrible position – the academy’s statement has now been refuted by multiple sources who do not wish to go on the record, for fear of their careers, in addition to it not being entirely clear if they can go public with their concerns under Air Force regulations.

(Another problem: Cadets who are not openly gay – at least not openly gay to the command – will be the least likely to attend a “gay” meeting with the top brass, so again, this is an inappropriate and ineffective way of getting to the bottom of whether there are concerns about anti-gay elements in the academy’s culture.)

But here’s the larger problem: When you have what amounts to a conspiracy, going to the top levels of the Air Force Academy, attempting to cover up complaints about the Air Force providing a hostile workplace for a protected class of minority-cadets, relaying your concerns up the chain of command isn’t terribly effective or appropriate when your concern is that the entire chain of command just engaged in a conspiracy to cover up, and undermine, a directive from the Secretary of Defense and the Commander in Chief to welcome gay cadets and ensure that they are treated fairly and equally.

To make matters worse, the academy appears to be engaging in a classic “blame the victim” strategy in order to stifle any potential whistleblowers. The academy claims it wants to hear any concerns that gay cadets have, while at the same time making clear that those cadets will be “harming the academy” if they express their concerns.

Message received.

Academy contradicts explanation as to why hired “ex-gay” “heterosexual confidence” coach

Now a few words about the rest of the academy’s statement issued this morning.

The academy attempts to defend the hiring of “cure the gays” expert Mike Rosebush by claiming that “he was hired for his background in leadership development and analytical skills.”  From this morning’s statement:

[Rosebush] began work at the Center in 2011, after working for two years as an analyst in the Academy’s Plans and Programs office.  He was hired for his background in leadership development and analytical skills.

That assertion contradicts the academy’s earlier statement to Stars & Stripes that they have no records on his hiring process, so they don’t know why he was hired:

[Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal] declined comment on whether Rosebush’s past writings and speeches were reviewed before he was offered a job, saying that the academy does not have records on his hiring process.

So either the academy is lying, or they have found the records on Rosebush’s hiring process and should release them publicly.

US Air Force Academy graduation (credit: U.S. Air Force Photo by Mike Kaplan/Released)

US Air Force Academy graduation (credit: U.S. Air Force Photo by Mike Kaplan/Released)

But the larger problem now for the academy is that it appears the administration of US Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson has just engaged in a conspiracy to lie to the public, and lie to their superiors at the Pentagon and the White House, in an attempt to squash what amounts to an EEO complaint.

If there were concerns before about the Air Force Academy being a not terribly welcoming place for gay cadets, the academy’s subterfuge this morning appears to have now confirmed our worst fears.

Below is the portion of the academy’s most recent statement dealing with the gay cadet’s concerns:

Regarding the allegations saying the Air Force’s Academy not being a welcoming place for LGBQ cadets, The Academy Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, along with the Commandant of Cadets, Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, and the Dean of the Faculty, Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, and Dr. Hans Mueh (Brig. Gen, ret.) Athletic Director recently met with Spectrum, the Academy’s affinity group for LGBQ cadets.

In that forum, the cadets expressed to Academy leaders that they are proud to be in the Air Force and do not feel like the Air Force Academy culture inhibits them in any way.  Rather, they expressed their concerns about the media reports and how those reports may affect the decision of young Americans to attempt to come to the Academy.

One attendee at the forum was Air Force Capt. Michelle L. Reinstatler, an Instructor, Department of English and Fine Arts, and the Officer in Charge of Spectrum.

“During the forum with leadership, the cadets of Spectrum expressed multiple times that the Academy is a safe and validating place to be LGBQ,” Capt. Reinstatler said.  “Several cadets have told me they are frustrated with the articles disparaging USAFA; these articles do not take into account the extensive support our LGBQ cadets have received from Academy leadership or the reality of the Academy’s inclusive environment.”

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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