In an interview with Katie Couric on Tuesday night’s CBS Evening News, Bill Clinton explained that when he passed “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation into law in 1993, the measure had been somewhat misrepresented to him by his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.
“I accepted it because it was better than an absolute ban,” Clinton said. “I was promised it would be better than it was.”
The former president said that what Powell indicated would be “promised” to gay service members was not what ended up being delivered.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell was only adopted when both Houses of Congress had voted by a huge veto-proof margin to legislate the absolute ban on gays in the military if I didn’t do something else,” Clinton said. “So there’s been a lot of rewriting history saying Bill Clinton just gave into that. That’s just factually false. I didn’t do anything until the votes were counted. Now, when Colin Powell sold me on don’t pass, don’t tell, here’s what he said it would be. Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades as long as they weren’t in uniform That was what they were promised. That’s a very different don’t ask, don’t tell than we got.”