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State rep defends comments about gay soldier

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 04. 2011 9:09PM

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, a retired Marine, is shown saluting the flag during a Veterans Day ceremony in 2008. He has found himself the subject of unwanted attention after he made comments to a liberal group that he was "disgusted" by a soldier identifying himself as gay during a political event. (UNION LEADER FILE)

LONDONDERRY - A state representative who is a prominent supporter of the presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that he has received a lot of unwanted attention since he made comments to a liberal group that he was 'disgusted' by a soldier identifying himself as gay during a political event.

'I already said what I said,' state Rep. Alfred Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said of comments recorded by 'This is just getting to be a big thing because this is the political season.'

After a town hall meeting in Derry on Friday, Baldasaro was recorded by the organization, as saying he was 'disgusted' that Stephen Hill, an Army soldier, identified himself as gay when he asked about the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' regulation during a Republican presidential primary debate last month.

'He doesn't realize it, but when the (expletive) hits the fan, you want your brothers covering your back, not looking at your back,' he was recorded as saying.

Baldasaro, who has campaigned for Perry in New Hampshire, was also asked whether he had an issue with the audience members booing after the soldier asked his question via a YouTube clip.

'Oh no, I thought the audience, when they booed (Hill), I thought it was great,' he said.

Baldasaro, a retired Marine, defended his comments Tuesday, saying that military rules prohibit active members of the military from appearing at political functions in uniform. Hill was wearing a gray 'Army' T-shirt, but wasn't actually at the event.

'He had no business being there,' Baldasaro said. 'That's what I meant when I said it was disgusting. It was concerning him coming out of the closet on national TV, pretty much at a political function.'

According to Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, active members of the Armed Forces are prohibited from speaking 'before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate or cause' but are allowed to 'register, vote and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.'

Baldasaro said he has no problem with gay people in general, but that things 'are different' when it comes to serving in the Marine Corps, which he called a tight-knit, war-fighting unit.

Baldasaro said the Perry campaign hadn't yet contacted him about the comments.

'I'm not speaking for Governor Rick Perry. I'm speaking for myself as an American with a First Amendment right to free speech,' he said.

He said he's received '10 or 15' calls from reporters.

'I wish they'd spend more time on jobs and the economy than what Al Baldasaro said,' he said. 'They're all looking for a story to make money for their papers.'

Four of the candidates, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and businessman Herman Cain, have since condemned the booing.

In an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Monday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he heard the boos but does not intervene when people are expressing their opinions.

'In these debates, there has been a lot of booing and a lot of applause,' Romney said. He later said: 'I don't know why people booed, but I will tell you that the boos and the applause have not always coincided with my own views.'

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