Drag performances took place on board the USS Ronald Reagan under the command of a Navy captain whose promotion to rear admiral is currently being blocked by Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
Capt. Michael Donnelly served as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan from April 2016 to September 2018. During that time period, Yeoman 2rd Class Joshua Kelley was performing as a drag queen at Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department-sanctioned events on the carrier under the drag name “Harpy Daniels.”
As commander of the USS Ronald Reagan, Donnelly would have been aware of, and responsible for, that activity, according to William Thibeau, director of The American Military Project at The Claremont Institute.
Donnelly declined to comment for this article through the U.S. Navy.
“Every military officer takes command of units large and small with the understanding they are responsible for everything that does and does not happen under their command,” Thibeau explained. “It’s the basic truth of military leadership, whether you command an infantry company or an aircraft carrier.”
“The USS Ronald Reagan drag shows of 2017 and 2018 were not random acts of entertainment for sailors, but were sanctioned Navy programs under the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department of the ship,” he noted. “As commander of the ship, Captain Donnelly would have been ultimately responsible for this program.”
Thibeau also noted that large media outlets, such as NBC and the Military Times, had covered the drag shows during Donnelly’s tour—significant press attention that “would have been a standard reporting requirement directly to Captain Donnelly at the time.” . . . (read more on Daily Signal)
TUBERVILLE INVESTIGATING HIGH-RANKING NAVAL OFFICERS OVER POSSIBLE VIOLATIONS OF TRUMP MILITARY TRANS BAN (Press Release, 4 MAY 23)
Following oversight hearing, Tuberville demands answers from Pentagon on drag queen performances on Navy ships
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) today announced his latest effort to hold the U.S. military accountable for using taxpayer funds for initiatives unrelated to the military’s core mission of protecting Americans by ensuring readiness and lethality.
In a letter to Admiral Michael M. Gilday, chief of naval operations, Senator Tuberville demands the names of the officers responsible for funding and promoting drag queen performances aboard naval vessels, including during the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender servicemembers. One of the alleged performers was appointed as the ‘digital ambassador’ for the Navy’s recruiting efforts, posting videos to the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok.
“Who was the Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) at the time of these performances?” wrote Senator Tuberville. “As I stated after your evasive answer to my question regarding the self-centered focus of these videos, my issue is not the sailors’ sexual orientation. The Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment are a great recruitment tool; an emphasis on race, sexuality, gender are not.”
Senator Tuberville’s letter to Admiral Gilday follows a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which the senator questioned the Navy’s programming and recruitment tactics. The hearing came shortly after a viral video, promoted by the Navy’s official social media pages, featured a self-identified nonbinary sailor claiming the highlight of their deployment on a $13 billion dollar warship was reading a poem. Admiral Gilday effusively defended the video and praised the sailor.
Yesterday, Senator Tuberville and a group of Republican colleagues sent a separate letter to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro demanding to know why the Navy is utilizing TikTok for any purpose. The platform is known to pose serious national security threats due to its links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Senator Tuberville has repeatedly argued that the U.S. military is too focused on political and cultural issues rather than readiness and lethality. Senator Tuberville believes those misplaced priorities have contributed to the military’s unprecedented recruitment shortfall.
The text of the full letter can be found here and pasted below.
3 May 2023
Admiral Michael M. Gilday
Chief of Naval Operations
Washington, District of Columbia
Since questioning you on 18 April regarding a junior officer’s poetry reading on the USS Gerald R. Ford. yet another video of one of your sailors went viral status this week. This time the video is of a so-called “Digital Ambassador” who reportedly performed as a drag queen while deployed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan beginning in 2017. As a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and its subcommittee on Seapower, I expect answers to the following by close of business 12 May:
- Who were the commanding officers, executive officers, and officers tasked with the collateral duty of supervising Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs aboard CVN 76 and CVN 78 at the time these shows/poetry readings took place? Include in your answer a military biography and most recent Fitness Report and Counseling Record for each.
- Who was the Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) at the time of these performances? Again, include in your answer a military biography and most recent Fitness Report and Counseling Record for that officer.
- Who were the civilian Afloat Recreation Specialists (Fun Bosses) of CVN 76 and CVN 78 responsible for oversight and planning of these performances?
- Were the chaplains of these warships members of their respective Recreation Advisory Boards?
- Provide any guidance you’ve given, by email, memorandum, directive, or in person to the Navy Chief of Information regarding these videos. Include with your answer any additional guidance you’ve given to that officer regarding the Navy’s public affairs posture for “Pride Month.”
- Provide any guidance you’ve given regarding the use of pronouns for officers and sailors.
As I stated after your evasive answer to my question regarding the self-centered focus of these videos, my issue is not the sailors’ sexual orientation. The Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment are a great recruitment tool; an emphasis on race, sexuality, gender are not.
Lastly, you may consider this oversight letter a warning order that I will be closely watching the Navy’s recruiting numbers, as I fully expect them to suffer in the wake of these events coming to light.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.
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