Fourteen Republican senators pushed back on Wednesday against the U.S. Navy’s use of a TikTok drag queen to boost its struggling recruitment efforts.
In a letter addressed to U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, the senators — including Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — questioned the Navy’s “Digital Ambassador” Pilot Program and “reports that the Navy enlisted a TikTok drag queen to help reach potential recruits on social media.”
As BizPac Review reported, Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, also known by the stage name “Harpy Daniels,” was chosen to serve as the “Navy Digital Ambassador,” part of an online outreach initiative that was “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates.”
US Navy deploys drag queen influencer to recruit new sailors https://t.co/mZyUW7TNNY pic.twitter.com/t3UEzskYqV
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) May 5, 2023
“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 senators wrote to the Navy secretary.
The Republicans reminded Del Toro that “Congress passed the No TikTok on Goverment Devices Act, which President Biden signed into law on December 29, 2022″ due to “legitimate concerns” that “China could use its legal and regulatory powers to obtain private user data or to push misinformation or narratives favoring the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
“The bottom line,” they wrote, “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.'”
What’s more, they argued, the Navy’s “2019 social media handbook” warns that “Sailors should assume any content they post may affect their personal careers and the reputation of the Navy more broadly.”
“This begs the question whether the Navy endorses the personal posts of its influencers and ‘ambassadors,'” they wrote. “If so, does the Navy endorse drag shows?”
The U.S. Navy hired this non-binary drag queen as a “digital ambassador” to try to recruit people pic.twitter.com/l3LIEtndVD
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) May 2, 2023
“Where does the Navy draw the line on promotion of the personal activities of its influencers? Would the Navy enlist burlesque or exotic dancers to reach possible recruits?” they asked, adding, “Such activity is not appropriate for promotion in a professional workplace or the United States military.”
The senators noted their “responsibility to conduct oversight and to determine potential legislative responses to the Navy’s recruiting crisis and its Digital Ambassador program.”
In keeping with their duty, they asked Del Toro about the Pilot Program’s status, future, and effectiveness.
They also questioned the secretary about the cost of the program.
“How much federal funding was expended on the Navy’s Digital Ambassador program?” they asked.
With respect to the “congressionally mandated ban of TikTok on Department of Defense devices,” the senators demanded to know if the Navy is “actively encouraging recruiters, ‘digital ambassadors’, and/or public affairs officers to use TikTok on their personal devices in order to get around the prohibition?”
“At a time when our nation’s military is facing a recruiting crisis, it is as important as ever to reach broader swaths of the eligible population—but not at the cost of privacy, security, or professionalism,” they stated.
“The United States military has a long history of successfully recruiting by promoting patriotism, valor, and the myriad of benefits of serving through campaigns such as ‘The Few. The Proud.’ and ‘Be All You Can Be.’,” the senators wrote. “The Navy should follow both the letter and spirit of the law as well as its own social media policies as it seeks to modernize its recruiting campaigns to build a strong and professional fleet capable of winning America’s wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.”
Secretary Del Toro was asked to respond to their questions no later than May 24.
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