Marine facing discharge over Obama comments: Free speech or grounds for dismissal?
Stein is facing discharge from the Marines due to comments he made about President Obama.
March 22nd, 2012
05:45 PM ET

Marine facing discharge over Obama comments: Free speech or grounds for dismissal?

CNN's Erin Burnett speaks to Marine Sergeant Gary Stein about his possible dismissal from the military. Was it free speech or grounds for discharge? Tune in at 7p ET for tonight's interview.

Marine says he faces discharge over Obama comments

(CNN) - A politically active Marine who has questioned President Barack Obama's authority said Thursday that he is facing administrative discharge proceedings over his comments.

Sgt. Gary Stein, who founded the Armed Forces Tea Party, said his commanding officer at Camp Pendleton near San Diego has accused him of violating a catch-all military justice provision against conduct endangering "good order and discipline."

He is also accused of violating a Department of Defense policy limiting the political activities of service members.

Stein came under scrutiny from Marine officials after saying he would not obey Obama's orders.

Filed under: News
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Lora McCloy

    My husband & I were both in the military and we also know many military members and veteran's. I am 40 & he is 41.To this day we respect the chain of command.I know there is freedom of speech.However,I think that everyone should respect our President,Our Country,& law enforcement.Noone likes to be disrespected on the Internet or in real life.Most people sue over an issues like this.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
  2. Dale

    Every service member takes an oath when they enter the military. In that oath, it clearly states, "I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me." When you publicly state that you will willfully disobey an order from the President, you are indirect violation of that oath which you swore to uphold. A discharge is letting this Marine off easy, because he could be charged with mutiny for saying he will disobey the Commander-in-Chief and encouraging other to do the same.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:37 am | Reply
  3. Mike

    This marine was out of line and not adhering to the standards expected of a military member. Free speech is not in question here, only this marine's integrity. On a side note, the arrogance of your commentator was disturbing. His comments were a discredit to himself, those he served with, and to the United States Army.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:23 am | Reply
  4. jay


    March 23, 2012 at 12:13 am | Reply
  5. chrismanning10

    Maybe this marine forgot the President Obama is the Commander-in-Chief, meaning he is the supreme leader of all military forces. If he had made this types of comments about his Captian, BC, or anyone else in his chain of command he would be guilty of the same thing. As a member of the military we give up certain rights that all other citizens are allowed to express. While you are in uniform you are required to give all military respects and courtesies to those in charge. If you make these types of comments you are in violation of the UCMJ, you have broken the law and you should be punished as such. In private you really can say whatever you want, you will not be punished or censored, but if you make your comments public you can not expect the same leniency. Anyone who has been in the military for more than 2 years knows that your chain of command will constantly change, if you don't like who you serve under, just grin and bear it because it is temporary. Even if you hate President Obama and his policies he has a limited command time.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:10 am | Reply
  6. Amir

    I feel bad for the american troops because what my opinion and it's not sayinf is correct is that this gulf war syndrom or other ailsments are the equivelant of unexpected and un achieved gaols. IT oculd be the equivelnt of a team going to a smaller teams cout and playing ball. THe other team ha no way to make it to the finals or the competintion. ANd their just too small. but throught the game they pick off your passes, rebound and 50% , their three pointers shoot atalmost 40% ......and they husteling a half court press all game. when going into thing peoepl are expected to sacrafice their body time and efforts as wel as their mind. when thir in a plce whos outcmoe might not be recognized period by the world when they get back home. ANd many of the goals might not be accomplished when their might me a phycological aspects that forces the body and mind to want to will it. In a place that they will nevr own or cliam...to beet there's no ownership aspect to it. And sometimes agreements between individuals is discouraged becuas eit implies an excape to what'sg going on. plus the time ans sacrafice to people mental capacity to a civil society is a little deminished.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
    • Jen

      Your personal opinion is your own and if Mike Breen the Lib doesn't understand that personal opinion and disregarding an order is different then the buck Capt. will need to be taken behind the barracks by the SGM an be taught a lesson. Out of uniform and without representing the US Military is our own personal business and it should be kept that way! Influences go both ways! Be careful what you wish for!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:54 am | Reply
  7. Jeremiah Arbogast, USMC(Ret)

    “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

    I may not agree with what Stein did I kept my views to myself when active, because I respected and followed my chain of command regardless of who was in it, because I respected the Marine Corps and did not want to bring discredit upon them or myself.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  8. Luis

    The president is the Commander in Chief. Regardless of what Sgt Stein's views are, he should keep them to himself. I dont understand why he would want to stay if he does not not agree with his boss. He should be happy to be getting out.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  9. Frank H. Valenzuela

    In this age of the Volunteer army, the soldier made the choice to join the service and obey the rules, which include our Commander in Chief. Wrong or right, he (the soldier) shouldn't question his President while serving our Country. He should've waited to become a civilian before making any negative comments against our president and thus, our country as a whole.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  10. Wil

    I think its "fascinating" that only after 11 years someone finally decided to take a look at a military contract! WOW! You
    may be on the road to understanding the sacrifices that service members make! You may make history Erin! Follow up with a General to help guide you since you clearly aren"t all there. Veterans and service members are tired of being misunderstood and walked on by the "we might know everything press corps". This is why the press has been accused of prejudice and discrimination toward the military.
    Remember the Iowa primary where a Soldier "in uniform" endosed Ron Paul? David Gregen turned and said "their not all monolithic" just to be waved off by Anderson Cooper. Shame we have to break our regs. to be percieved as human beings. Fix YOURselves!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  11. Ken Landriau

    The UCMJ is quite clear on this issue. It may need clarification in order to explicitly cover social media such as Twitter and Facebook; nevertheless, one has to question the motives of this man. He should be removed from military service.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  12. Spc. Nicholas Lambert (Army vet)

    As a soldier in the U.S military you are required by law to respect the President, follow any orders given by the president, and not to in any way voice defaming comments about the president while serving our country. Although you may disagree with him politically or even legally, you are under the U.C.M.J and not just a civilian who’s freedom of speech was being violated.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  13. raffi

    The big diffidence between the military and civilian is the military can't speak what ever he wants and if any group or agency wants his comments he/she should refer them to the public affairs office and on this case the president is in chain of command so any comments like this on him is violation of UCMJ ( uniform court of military justice ) and it applies to soldiers 24/7 .that means as long as they are in CONTRACT even in civilian cloths after normal duty hours (( ex. after 4 pm ))

    March 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  14. Jim

    Those rules r in place for a reason, using Facebook as an excuse in no excuse. Thousands of people couldn't stand President Clinton. He took away life time free health care, brought in don't ask don't tell. Not to mention the Lewinsky episode Having said that, those that felt they could not serve or follow those directions as may be given from time to time by the commander and chief, got out of the military and found employment else where. His discharge is appropriate. Once he becomes a civilian he can exercise his "free speech" as he sees fit. Being a Marine, he knew exactly what he was doing. Semper Fi. African American or not, he is the President of these United States.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  15. Tristan N.

    Discharge! Those laws are in place to protect the citizens of the United States of America! Everybody understands the reason for these laws. If they were not in place, any one person can lead the army against the country itself! Everyone is allowed to speak there mind, but not to a large group of people encouraging open rebellion. He is lucky he is not tweeting from the brig!

    March 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  16. Frances

    I worked many years for a county sheriff. Per general orders, you could be terminated for speaking against the sheriff or the department. It's just good security.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  17. Larry C.

    When any military person chalges the military leadership, including the president , that person insults all past and present military persons. If this soldier is just affraid and wanting to get out of the military he should say so to his comanding officer. This guy should realize that his comments could appear treasonous to most military persons.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  18. RICO

    Hmmm. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall as much (if any) angst or consternation at this level in the national press, much less CNN (regarding the activities of Soldiers in uniform) when Lt. Dan Choi, the GBLT "Dream Date" handcuffed himself (in uniform) to the White House fence. I could be mistaken, but I believe that is a felony, yes? Then there are the UCMJ offenses to consider, as well.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  19. few

    I just wonder if you (CNN) covered these types of stories during President's Bush's term in the same slant you're covering this one? I say no.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  20. Harry

    My thoughts on this is I a Vetnam Veteran and I did not agree with that war but I was Drafted I did not say anything bad about President Johnson he was the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces they are not suppost to be political at all.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  21. tip

    Flat out racist!!! He just didn't want to follow a black president's orders. Where was all of this when the Bush Admin. was in the White House??? Don't worry, I'll wait!!

    March 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  22. Susan

    If I said that about my company CEO on any social media site, I'd be out too. Sorry, no governmental immunity for idiots.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  23. Stella Zimmerman

    Erin, the soldier signed away his right to be a political activist when he signed his contract with the Army. When my son joined the army, I read his contract thoroughly. In it it states that as a soldier, he cannot be involved in public political events. My son had met with a recruit and chose to join the army. Yet, the personal rights he enjoyed as a private citizen he chose to give up in order to be part of the U.S. Militairy. Most importantly, to follow his Commander-In-Chief. Inherent in that contractual commitment is that he does not get to decide which Commander-In-Chief to follow any given year of his service. He has the choice to resign when his contract is up. I am so glad I read that contract, because no matter how I felt about the war itself, or the orders he may or not be given, my son decided himself to sign that contract and whatever happened, it had been his choice. This Marine did not read his contract thoroughly, because actually he did waive his rights with the contract he signed. And he founded a Tea Party – that is his political activism. I think that these rules do create unity. It is up to the people to replace the Commander-In-Chief. It is up to soldiers to follow orders. That's your job. If you don't llike the contract, don;t reup. That simple.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  24. John

    He is lucky he is not being charged with a crime. President Obama is the Commander-in-Cheif, agree with him or not. When this young man enlisted he took an oath to Obey his superiors lawful orders. He is a poor excuse for an NCO and a Marine.
    I served 20 years and totally believe in freedom of speech but to say you are not going to obey a lawful order from the Commander-in-Chief is disrespectful and should not be tolerated.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  25. Tim

    I think the distinction between free speech and insubordination would come into play when a service member refuses to obey a lawful order or encourages others to do so. One may be free to question the wisdom of a policy or vote against it, but not to refuse to obey lawful orders from the Commander-in-Chief.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • eli

      so tru , i couldnt said it any better.. just think of student decided to taken on a teacher or principal at school with other kids following him.. or a police of fireman..

      March 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  26. Robert

    Whatever a soldier's ideology, they should not be involved in politics either left wing, right wing, or moderate. Leave the service and then feel free to do what you want.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Reply
    • Larry Macdonald

      Robert is spot on. This policy has stood the test of time. Civilian control of our military is fundamental.

      Members of the Military vote and express their political opinion at the polls. It ends there!

      March 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply

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