Pentagon Makes Air Force Base Cancel Drag Show Following Republican Pressure

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) / Getty Images
June 1, 2023

The Pentagon canceled on Wednesday a drag show scheduled to take place at an Air Force base in Nevada after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) flagged the event.

The show, which, per Gaetz, was billed as "family-friendly" and had no minimum age requirement, was scheduled to take place June 1 at Nellis Air Force Base. The Pentagon had previously denied that any taxpayer funds were used to organize such events, but in a May letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Gaetz identified six drag shows, including the June 1 event, held or scheduled to be held at military installations. Six days after Gaetz sent the letter, the Pentagon canceled the drag show at the Nevada Air Force base.

The drag show’s cancellation is the latest in a string of victories for conservatives in pushing back against progressive initiatives. In May, organizers canceled LGBTQ+ Pride events in Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) signed a bill prohibiting minors from being present at "adult live performances"; Target removed some of its Pride apparel following backlash over transgender children's swimsuits and a designer who identifies as a Satanist; and Bud Light sales have plunged following the brand’s partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.

In March, Gaetz questioned Austin about the Department of Defense funding drag queen story hours during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Austin denied that department funds were being used to put on such events.

In his May letter contradicting Austin’s statement, Gaetz questioned why these six scheduled events had been approved given Austin’s testimony stating that the DOD did not fund drag shows.

"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."

"Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is not a suitable use of DOD resources," deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Wednesday. "Our Service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets."