Republican senators are demanding answers after the U.S. Navy employed a drag queen influencer, as one of its “digital ambassadors” to enlist new members. According to Breitbart, Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley participated in the Navy’s ambassador program from October 2022 to March 2023. Although Kelley had previously performed as a drag queen, his role as a digital ambassador gained more public attention this week after a video of him went viral on social media, which sparked controversy as many questioned the motives behind this recruiting strategy along with many questioning they’ve taken a hyper left-wing approach.
Kelley, who identifies as non-binary, expressed gratitude to the Navy for allowing him to share his experience in the Navy and advocate for queer sailors. According to Kelley, he first performed drag for fellow sailors during lip sync shows on a deployment in 2017 and 2018, and video footage of his second performance was released on “international platforms.”
Republican senators wrote a scathing letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, in which they Navy labeled the branch’s recruitment campaign unprofessional. They noted how TikTok is banned for use on government phones, stating, “While we understand the importance of social media for modern recruiting, we are concerned about both the promotion of a banned app and behavior that many deem inappropriate in a professional workplace.”
“The bottom line is that the Navy should not be promoting use of TikTok, an app banned on Department devices, on the personal devices of servicemembers or its ‘ambassadors,’” the letter continued.
The Navy defended the pilot initiative, stating that it was designed to reach a wide range of potential candidates as the Navy faces its most challenging recruitment environment since the start of the all-volunteer force. Kelley was one of five Navy digital ambassadors and a spokesperson from the program told Fox that the ad campaign was “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates” amid “the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force.”
The republican letter was signed by Sens. Ted Budd (NC), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Rick Scott (Fla.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), and Roger Marshall (Kan.).
They gave Del Toro until May 24th to respond and provide details about the program’s promotion of TikTok.