Congress’ compromise defense bill puts a pause on a Navy recruiting program that platformed a drag queen until the Pentagon makes a full accounting of the program, including how the drag queen came to participate in the first place.
The Navy suspended the Digital Ambassador program after the Daily Caller News Foundation first reported the Navy brought on an active duty sailor-slash-drag queen to reach a wider potential recruiting audience through the program. Congress’ compromise defense bill unveiled late Wednesday orders the Navy to “cease all activities of the digital ambassador program” until at least 60 days after the Navy chief submits a report to Congress after widespread Republican scrutiny of the Pentagon’s seeming promotion of sexually explicit performances.
The report should contain the total number of ambassadors, the criteria for becoming an ambassador, ensuing duties and which social media platforms the individuals are authorized to engage with, according to the bill.
The House moved to suspend the program in its initial draft of the National Defense Authorization Act setting the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2024. However, lawmakers tasked with reconciling the Senate and House versions of the bill eliminated a separate proposal that would have banned drag shows throughout the Department of Defense (DOD), but that was included in the House version of the bill.
The legislators noted that the Pentagon had already canceled drag shows at U.S. military bases, according to the bill report.
Joshua Kelley, who also went by the stage name Harpy Daniels, posted videos of himself in uniform transforming into his drag queen getup, including during the period he served as an ambassador for the Navy. Kelley announced the Navy invited him to become the first “Navy Digital Ambassador” in a November 2022 social media post, highlighting his journey from performing on deck in 2018 to becoming a “leader” and “advocate” of people who “were oppressed for years in the service.”
The Digital Ambassador initiative in which Kelley participated ran from October 2022 to March 2023 and was “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates,” the Navy spokesperson previously told the DCNF. At the time, the Navy said it was evaluating the program to consider what form it would take in the future but had no immediate plans to restart the program.
“We understand the need to reach broadly across the eligible population to improve recruiting outcomes, but we questionpromotion of social media influencers who post behaviors or activities many Americans deem inappropriate,” GOP senators wrote in a May letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
“Drag shows are not something that the Department of Defense supports or funds,” Austin told Congress during a line of questioning from Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz regarding reports of DOD-sponsored drag queen story hours at military bases.Republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation.