Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas criticized the United States Navy on Thursday for selecting a drag queen to be its “digital ambassador.” Cotton said that this decision was an example of a major cause of the military’s current recruitment crisis. He further argued that using a drag queen as an ambassador may exacerbate this crisis, as young Americans join the military to serve their country and become warriors, not social justice warriors.
Tom Cotton doesn’t understand what point the Navy is trying to make https://t.co/FbaanrfGI0
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) May 4, 2023
The Navy had selected Yeoman Second Class Joshua Kelley to be its digital ambassador in 2022. Kelley performs in drag under the stage name “Harpy Daniels” and posts videos on social media. In a 2020 profile for “Pride Month,” the Navy praised Kelley for the diversity and acceptance he experienced while at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, a base in Virginia.
Cotton, along with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and 12 other Republican senators, asked the Navy to explain its decision to appoint Kelley as a “digital ambassador.” But Kelley hit back at his critics, saying they only support the military when it suits them and that they do not care about queer people serving their country.
While the Navy claims that Kelley represents the diversity of individuals serving in the armed forces, Cotton believes that using drag queens to recruit new members is a misguided strategy. Instead, Cotton suggests that the Navy and other military branches should focus on highlighting the patriotism, adventure, and camaraderie that comes with serving one’s country.
It remains to be seen how the military will respond to these criticisms. But the debate over Kelley’s appointment highlights how deeply divided the United States remains on issues of sexuality, identity, and the military. To many conservatives, the military should be a bastion of patriotic values, not a forum for social justice activism.