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Military Chief Defends Cancellation of Drag Show at Nevada Military Base

Military Chief Defends Cancellation of Drag Show at Nevada Military Base

Mark Milley
Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

It was “the absolute right thing to do,” Mark Milley told CNN.

Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has defended the cancellation of a drag show that was to have been held last week at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Milley, the top U.S. military officer, told CNN’s Oren Liebermann Monday that canceling the show was “the absolute right thing to do.”

The performance was meant to mark the start of Pride Month and had already been approved at the base. But Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Milley nixed it.

Milley told CNN the decision was Austin’s but that he concurred in it. The general said that drag shows “were never part of [Department of Defense] policy to begin with, and they’re certainly not funded by federal funds.”

The cancellation came after Austin assured members of Congress that the Defense Department didn’t support or finance such performances. Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz had sent a letter May 23 to Austin and Milley critical of the drag show.

“I find it completely unacceptable that DoD is using taxpayer dollars to fund DEI programs that are divisive in nature,” Gaetz wrote. “DoD resources should be used for mission-essential operations, not diverted toward initiatives that create cultural fissures within our service ranks.” DEI stands for “diversity, equity, and inclusion”; the far right objects to DEI programs.

At the time of the cancellation, Defense officials did not respond to questions about how quashing the event squared with the Biden administration’s support for the LGBTQ+ community and denunciation of anti-drag laws. LGBTQ+ activists condemned the cancellation.

Liebermann asked Milley about conservative criticism that the military has become “woke," a word that has become the right’s preferred term to describe anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ+ initiatives, which it opposes.

“I think the accusations of ‘woke’ are grossly overexaggerated,” Milley said. “Every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine are out there focused on the mission, and the mission is to defend the United States, its people, our interests, and the constitution of the United States.”

Milley was speaking from France’s Normandy region, where he was marking the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion by U.S. and allied military forces of Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944. He has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs since 2019 and is due to retire this year.

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