Joe Solmonese Insists He Didn’t Tell Obama to Wait on DADT. Is He Lying?


The Human Rights Campaign is mounting a defense against charges it advised the White House to hold off on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in favor of passing hate crimes and anti-discrimination employment legislation — and it’s not clear it’s working.

Yesterday’s shocking report that HRC used its much-bragged-about access to tell President Obama ending DADT could wait; until ENDA and the Matthew Shepard Act moved through Congress, it was okay to keep discriminating against gay soldiers.

Michael Cole, HRC’s senior communications manager, told Queerty: “This story is not only an outright lie, it is recklessly irresponsible. HRC never made such a deal and continues to work with congress and the administration on a full range of equality issues including a swift end to the military’s shameful ban on gay servicemembers. Happy to answer questions or clarify anything.” (We followed up with a few questions; we have yet to hear back.)

In the meantime, Jason Bellini’s original report with anonymous sources is now backed up by OutQ host Michelangelo Signorile who has an on the record source. Says Signorile: “While Bellini had unnamed sources, I, however, have a named source saying exactly what Bellini reports, someone I interviewed several weeks ago on the show: Aaron Belkin of the Palm Center, the research institute that focuses on the military and sexuality, located at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Belkin writes often for The Huffington Post and interacts with members of Congress.” From a previous interview:

BELKIN: …Our major national gay rights organizations — it would be one thing to say nothing, but there is pro-active lobbying on the hill for Congress not to consider [the “don’t ask, don’t tell”] issue. And so the community has been appalling on this issue.

SIGNORILE : Have you seen any response from any of those groups, and I guess we’re talking about the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, other Washington groups?

BELKIN:…We’ve heard from so many offices that not only are they not doing anything but they’re pro-actively lobbying against consideration of the issue. I feel very confident in saying that.

No wonder HRC president Joe Solmonese — who’s been dodging interviews since last month after meeting with the White House — is suddenly making himself available to the gay press.

If you want to listen to Signorile’s full interview, go here where you can listen to Solmonese explain away the White House’s lack of action — and deliver an unconvincing argument that his advice to Obama’s camp doesn’t favor specific legislation. However, says Solmonese about whether he ever recommended sitting on one effort: “Oh no, absolutely not.”

UPDATE: By way of HRC comes this statement from Sen. Chuck Shumer’s spokesman Brian Fallon: “Senator Schumer has never said the White House didn’t consider the repeal of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ a priority, and he never said the Human Rights Campaign struck some quote-unquote deal on this issue. Any rumors to the contrary are flat-out wrong.”

UPDATE 2: On Hardball last night, Chris Matthews quizzed Solmonese. (Lorri Jean Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center was also a guest. Full transcript here.)

SOLMONESE: Well, I think, on any measure of issues that we‘re working on right now with the White House, whether it‘s movement on the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or overturning don‘t ask/don‘t tell, the White House is working on these issues. But Lorri Jean brings up an incredibly important point, particularly with regard to don‘t ask/don‘t tell. There‘s overturning the policy, which I believe that the administration will do within the course of the year or so, and then there are good hardworking people like Dan Choi, an Arab language interpreter, who could potentially be thrown out of the military in the next few weeks. And the president has the opportunity to stop that from happening. We have asked him to do that and pressed him to do that, and hope that he will.

MATTHEWS: But, if he does that by executive order, what is he worried about? Why is he not doing it, Joe?

SOLMONESE: Well—well, we don‘t know what—I mean, he may do it, and—and he has the opportunity to do it. I mean, it may be that—I don‘t know why he wouldn‘t do it. But, I mean, with regard to overturning the policy generally, I mean, you brought up—I don‘t think it‘s a case that he wants to not necessarily upset these military leaders, but I think, you know, he understands that there‘s an implementation part of this policy that has to be worked through.
And I think, on any measure that he‘s working on with us—and I see it—you know, we‘re working daily with them on getting the hate crimes bill to his desk right now—that he approaches these things in a way that they will be sustainable and will work in—in a way that‘s going to, you know, work for the community, as opposed to an expeditious manner, which I think you saw President Clinton undertake in the first days of his administration that actually got us don‘t ask/don‘t tell.

On the one hand, Solmonese is explaining away Obama’s non-action; on the other, he says Obama can repeal DADT with just a signature and that he should do it.