Critics lambasted the U.S. Navy Wednesday over its use of a “drag queen influencer” to help persuade new recruits to join the military amid a massive recruitment crisis.
News broke earlier in the day that Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who goes by the stage name “Harpy Daniels” and identifies as non-binary, was a “Digital Ambassador” in the Navy’s pilot program to attract new recruits.
The revelations set off explosive reactions from lawmakers and former members of the U.S. military alike.
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Navy Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who goes by the stage name “Harpy Daniels,” announced back in November 2022 that he was the Navy’s “Digital Ambassador.” (Screenshot/ Harpy Daniels/ TikTok)
“Woke, partisan officials are projecting weakness abroad and divisiveness at home. 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. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who serves as the chair of the House Military Personnel Subcommittee, told Fox News Digital.
A staff member for Banks told Fox that the congressman reached out to the Navy over Kelley’s account in March, but didn’t hear back from the branch on its use of the drag queen until recently.
“Maybe the Navy should talk to Bud Light marketing and exchange notes about what NOT to do,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL, wrote on social media, referencing the recent controversy with the beer brand over its use of transgender personality Dylan Mulvaney in a marketing campaign that backfired.
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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.”
“I’m sure China, Iran and Russia are all shaking in their boots now,” comedian and journalist Tim Young wrote, later adding, “Instead of a strong seafaring military force, Biden is converting it to a gay cruise line.”
While Kelley’s Instagram bio shows that the performer’s opinions “are not endorsed by DoD or DoN,” the drag queen claims to have danced in drag for service officers on a number of different occasions, sharing one video from 2018.
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The USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the US Navy, arrives into Sydney Harbour on July 10, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
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. The reason, the spokesperson added, was that the Navy is navigating “the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force.”
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.
Fox News’ Jeffrey Clark contributed to this report.