The U.S. Navy’s decision to use a drag queen as a digital ambassador to help with recruiting has sparked an online backlash.
The controversial move came after all U.S. military branches fell short of their recruiting goals.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley is an active-duty sailor who identifies as non-binary. He uses the stage name “Harpy Daniels.”
The sailor has shared videos of his drag performances while on board ship on social media.
“From joining to 2016 and being able to share my drag experience on my off time with my fellow sailors has been a blessing,” Kelley wrote on Instagram in November.
The Daily Caller reports that Kelley had announced in November that the Navy invited him to become the first Navy Digital Ambassador. The program ran from October through the end of April.
The Navy told The Caller that the idea was to “reach a wide range of potential candidates” through the ambassador program. It’s part of the Navy’s plan to attract more young recruits.
Kelley and four others who took part in the program weren’t paid for it.
The publicity effort was blasted online by some lawmakers and former members of the military.
One of those lawmakers who questioned the Navy’s marketing plan was U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), 39, who’s currently serving his third term in Congress. He’s a retired Navy lieutenant commander and a former Navy SEAL.
In an Instagram post, Crenshaw shared a story from The New York Post showing photos of Kelley in his naval uniform and in drag, writing: “Did we learn nothing from Bud Light? Obviously the Navy didn’t.”
“The military is facing a historic recruitment crisis for the second year in a row. Politicizing an already-tanking recruitment rate is not how we fix that,” the Texas 2nd district congressman suggested.
Crenshaw also quoted statistics from a survey conducted by the Ronald Reagan Institute that showed the primary reason for the recruiting decline being the “perceived politicization of the military.”
“We can’t afford for our country to suffer in military readiness for the sake of pushing the left’s woke narrative—especially with adversaries like China and Russia watching us closely,” Crenshaw wrote.
Conservative commentator and veteran Graham Allen criticized Kelley’s activities on Tuesday when he tweeted, “This is not the same military I served under… Our enemies LAUGH at us,” including a video of Kelley in drag.
Former 11th Space Warning Squadron commander Matthew Lohmeier told Fox News he questioned just who U.S. military leaders think they’re appealing to by hiring a drag queen as a digital ambassador in the recruiting process.
He noted drag videos are not only hurting recruiting but also retention.
“We’ve known for the past couple of years during the Biden administration, this has been taking place more and more. What’s surprising is that senior military leaders continue to push an agenda like this despite the fact that it’s hurting our recruiting efforts and it’s hurting our retention,” Lohmeier said
During a congressional hearing in late March, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley whether taxpayer funding had gone toward any of several drag performances on military installations. Austin denied that his department funded such activities.
Gaetz then showed the secretary and the general an image of a flyer of a reported drag queen storytime event for children at Malmstrom Air Force Base outside of Great Falls, Montana.
He asked Austin again, “Why are they happening on military bases? I just showed you the evidence.”
Austin replied, “I will say again. This is not something that we support or fund.”
Milley, the top U.S. military officer, asked Gaetz for copies of the drag queen flyers.
“I’d like to take a look at those myself, actually, and find out what actually is going on there, because that’s the first I’m hearing about that kind of stuff … I’d like to take a look at those because I don’t agree with those. I think those things shouldn’t be happening,” Milley said.
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