(NewsNation) — The Navy has faced criticism for selecting Petty Officer Joshua Kelley, also known as Harpy Daniels, a drag queen and social media star, as their digital ambassador. Kelley says they don’t pay the criticism any mind and it’s their job to defend the freedoms of Americans to have their own views.
“It doesn’t hurt. The reason why it doesn’t hurt is because everyone, you have your own opinion, you have your own views. As a sailor, it’s my job to defend that freedom. And that includes even my freedom of expression. So, anybody who’s served their country and put on that uniform has taken that oath just like me,” Kelley told “On Balance” host Leland Vittert.
Kelley served as the first of five Navy digital ambassadors in a program that ran from October to March. The move has faced backlash from some and praise from others.
Former Navy SEAL Robert J. O’Neill, who was part of the team that killed Osama bin Laden, tweeted: “Alright, the U.S. Navy is now using an enlisted sailor Drag Queen as a recruiter. Im done. China is going to destroy us. YOU GOT THIS NAVY. I cant believe I fought for this (expletive).”
Retired Navy Commander Julianna Vida called Kelley’s designation a “critical” campaign to welcome “traditionally excluded segments of our population.”
Kelley says more LGBTQ+ people have reached out now seeking recruitment information.
“I’m a huge advocate for what I do, and the service, and for who I am, for the queer community. So, I definitely have seen more people now reach out to get more information now that they’re seeing a more diversified Navy,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s grandfather and father also served in the military. Kelley believes the military is stronger with diversity.
“As a sailor and someone who I am, I lead my people. It’s more than just diversity. We’re taught our ethics and how to serve with honor, courage and commitment, how to do my job, how to lead my sailors. I’ve been on three deployments myself. I have credit where credit is due,” Kelley said. “I’m proud to serve and I’m proud of the stuff I’ve done within the military too. I’m more than just a drag queen.”
Kelley continued: “I want to still be me and serve my country.”
The digital ambassador program was launched to attract recruits as the Navy is not expected to meet recruiting goals for the year.