The U.S. Navy faced a wave of criticism Wednesday after news broke that the branch is using a “drag queen influencer“ to help with recruitment amid a massive recruitment crisis.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who goes by the stage name “Harpy Daniels“ and identifies as non–binary, is a “Digital Ambassador“ in the Navy‘s pilot program to attract new recruits. It‘s unclear what his role entails, but he claims to have danced in drag for service officers on a number of different occasions.
The revelations set off explosive reactions from lawmakers and former members of the U.S. military alike.
“Woke, partisan officials are projecting weakness abroad and divisiveness at home,” Rep. Jim Banks, R–Ind., who serves as the chair of the House Military Personnel Subcommittee, told Fox News Digital. “The recruitment shortage is a serious crisis that we must address with serious solutions. TikTok videos of drag queens are just making a bad problem worse.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R–Texas, a former Navy SEAL, wrote on Twitter that “maybe the Navy should talk to Bud Light marketing and exchange notes about what NOT to do,” referencing the recent controversy with the beer brand over its use of transgender personality Dylan Mulvaney in a marketing campaign that backfired.
Former Republican Senate candidate and combat veteran Sean Parnell wrote on Twitter, “The Navy is using a drag queen to boost sinking recruitment numbers…& wondering why numbers are in the tank. This woke BS is destroying our military,” while former Republican congressional candidate Hung Cao, a Navy veteran, said he was “at a loss for words.”
The Digital Ambassador initiative that Kelley participated in ran from October 2022 to March 2023 and was “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates,” a Navy spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
However, concerns have continued to grow over the military‘s recruitment challenges, as it struggles to hit recruitment goals. A recent survey found only 13% of young Americans are “highly willing“ to serve in the nation‘s armed forces.
The U.S. military‘s use of a drag queen to help with recruitment has been met with a swift and unified chorus of criticism, with critics arguing that it‘s an inappropriate solution to a serious crisis.
It‘s unclear what impact the Digital Ambassador program will have on the Navy‘s recruitment numbers, but it‘s clear that many will be watching closely to see if it‘s effective.