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Poll: Many believe Air Force treated Flinn unfairly

Flinn May 23, 1997
Web posted at: 12:10 p.m. EDT (1610 GMT)

(CNN) -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll reveals that Americans are divided on whether the Air Force treated 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn fairly on charges stemming from adultery. But a large number of those polled believe the first female bomber pilot was treated worse than a male pilot facing similar charges would have been.

The poll was conducted with 643 adult Americans on Thursday following the Air Force's decision to grant Flinn a general discharge, allowing her to leave without a court martial. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Of those polled, 43 percent said the Air Force treated her fairly, compared to 47 percent who said she was treated unfairly.

graphic

When asked if Flinn was treated better than, the same or worse than would be a male pilot facing similar charges, 47 percent of those polled said she was treated worse. Twenty-seven percent said she was treated the same; 17 percent said better.

graphic

Poll: Lying more serious than adultery

The poll also found that a majority of Americans do not consider Flinn's adultery a serious offense, while about two-thirds of those polled consider her lying to investigators and disobeying investigators a serious offense that deserves penalty.

The public reacts to Lt. Kelly Flinn icon
"She lied... I don't think that affects her ability to fly."
(60K/4 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"She made a bad judgment call... "
(128K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"I'm glad she's out of the Air Force... "
(43K/3 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"Male pilots... probably get away with it on a regular basis."
(60K/5 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"She's being made an example of because she's a woman."
(51K/4 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

In addition, 45 percent of those polled said they approve of Flinn's handling of the case, while 53 percent of those polled disapproved of the Air Force's handling of the case.

Internet users express views

In e-mail sent to CNN Interactive, some readers were critical both of the military's code of standards and of Flinn.

"Those that make policies and are in charge of governing the nation ... do not have to live by the same rules that they establish for these folks willing to defend this great country," wrote Skipper Mutalik. "People who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones."

But Teresa Warner said Flinn's punishment should have been more severe. "I cannot believe that the Air Force let Lt. Flinn off so easily," Warner wrote. "Had that been a male officer, I believe the standards would have been different."

Flinn, 26, was charged with adultery, disobedience, fraternization and lying to investigators.

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