Sgt. Gary Stein was booted from the Marine Corps in April for criticizing President Obama on Facebook. A PSA using Stein's ordeal to warn other Marines about using social media during the election season was published online by Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point public affairs personnel. The video has subsequently been removed. (Gregory Bull / The Associated Press)
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A Marine booted from the service earlier this year after using Facebook to bash President Obama is unhappy with the Corps for describing his travails in a public-service announcement about the career risks of misusing social media.
Former Sgt. Gary Stein, who administrates the Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook, received national attention when he was ousted in April with an other-than-honorable discharge. The Corps' PSA, "Staying social media savvy during election season," was published online Tuesday by public affairs personnel at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and uses Stein's ordeal to warn other Marines about not repeating his mistakes.
The Marine Corps seldom issues PSAs that highlight mistakes made by individuals. Stein told Marine Corps Times he's not happy about his case being used by the Marine Corps to teach social media awareness, saying the institution should value the service he gave, even though he was administratively separated.
"I still served my country for nine years," Stein said. "I still deserve that respect."
In addition to lambasting the president on Facebook, Stein also said he would refuse certain orders issued by the commander in chief. His outspoken views about the free-speech rights of military members, and his refusal to back down when his command told him to keep quiet, captured the attention of several national news outlets. Marine Corps Times included his controversial battle in its March 26 cover story, "Anti-Obama Marines."
The Marine Corps should've consulted Stein before publishing the PSA, he said, because his case is not completely resolved. He's currently appealing the discharge and plans to present his case later this month.
Stein said he disapproves of the Corps promoting a message limiting troops' political speech, a viewpoint he advocated in numerous TV appearances earlier this year.
"Our service members can't just roll over when we're talking about taking away a constitutional right," Stein said. "Marines should be able to talk about this stuff as long as they're clear they're only representing themselves, and I did that."
Mike Barton, deputy director of public affairs at Cherry Point, said featuring Stein's story in its PSA was meant to serve as a cautionary tale in what is a regular election season reminder on military policy regarding political activity.
"I think that as just a recent case that gives a powerful example of what can happen if you disobey the regulations," Barton said. "I don't believe that many Marines are going to lose any respect for any service that he gave the Marine Corps."
The PSA was removed from the web Tuesday afternoon, following Marine Corps Times' query.
Stein, a weather forecaster in the service and now a real estate agent, said he's not anti-Marine Corps, but that he believes Marines should be able to talk about politics so long as they are clear they're expressing only their own opinions.
"This is just a scare tactic," he said. "They are embarrassed about what happened with me, and that's unfortunate. This is a very important election year — not just for the presidential election but down to every local level."