ORLANDO, FL — Here’s something many of the candidates running for the Republican nomination for president can agree on: Booing an active duty soldier serving in Iraq because he’s gay is really not a great thing to be doing.
TPM spoke with candidates and spinmeisters in the post-debate mob here Thursday night about the gasp-inducing sight of Republicans booing a member of the military because he’s gay during the night’s Fox News/YouTube debate. The common response was variations on the word “unfortunate.”
“It was unfortunate,” Jon Huntsman told TPM. “You know, we’re all Americans, and the fact that he is an American who put on the uniform says something good about him.”
Florida state Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) was among those spinning reporters for Rick Perry after the debate. TPM asked him what he thought of a hometown crowd booing a soldier serving overseas.
“That was very unfortunate,” he said. “I wish that one of the candidates, any of them, would have highlighted how disrespectful it was for anyone in the audience to boo someone who who’s risking their life for our country.”
It was pointed out to Gaetz that his candidate, Perry, stood silent along with the others on stage after the boos.
“I think that a lot of the candidates were caught up in the moment,” he told TPM. “That was a very unfortunate moment in the debate.”
Outside the spin room, other Republicans were joining the outcry against the boos.
“Booing a soldier serving our nation is uncalled for,” Ari Fleischer, former George W. Bush Press Secretary, tweeted. “If I were on stage, i would make that point.”
Chris Barron, the leader of the gay tea party group GOProud, was also dismayed.
“You boo a soldier serving our country in Iraq - you suck,” he tweeted. “Shame on the traitors who booed that soldier.”
Back in Orlando, TPM asked Gary Johnson — who scored his first slot on a debate stage in quite a while Thursday — if the crowds at the GOP debates were meaner than he’s seen before. Past audiences have given raucous applause to the concept of 234 executions and praised the idea of letting the uninsured die.
Johnson, who is not a social conservative, opposes the death penalty and supports the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, said that the angrier members of the audiences at the debates are not the whole of the GOP.
“In my opinion, when you have booing this is not indicative of Republicans,” he said. “This is not the Republican Party that I belong to.”