GOP candidates seek distance from booing of gay soldier at debate

Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Friday that the booing of a gay soldier serving in Iraq was "not right" and that he regrets not condemning the jeers at the time.

"If I have one regret from last evening, it’s that I didn’t stand up and say, you know, you’re booing a U.S. serviceman who is denied being able to express his sexual preference," the former New Mexico governor said on MSNBC. "There’s something very, very wrong with that."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) - an outspoken critic of gay marriage - was asked a question via YouTube about what would happen to openly gay servicemen if Don't Ask, Don't Tell was reinstated. The Orlando crowd began booing.

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At the time Santorum did not acknowledge the boos, and said that the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was "tragic" and "playing social experimentation" with the military. The former senator later claimed that he did not hear the jeering, and would have spoken out against it if possible.

“I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier,” he said on Fox News. “I have to admit I seriously did not hear those boos. ... But certainly had I, I would’ve said, “Don’t do that. This man is serving our country, and we are to thank him for his service.”

But other candidates did hear the jeering. Johnson, who supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, unlike many Republican candidates, said that while he was "chomping at the bit" to denounce the boos, he didn't speak out because he was afraid of stepping out of turn at his first debate.

"I’m feeling a little bit like I’m walking on egg shells," he said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman called the booing "unfortunate and unnecessary."

“We all wear the same uniform in America. We all salute the same flag. I have two boys starting their journey in the U.S military. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation,” Huntsman said on ABC.