Nation's top general says it's an 'overstatement' to say 'the entire military is woke' over a few drag shows on bases

Nation's top general says it's an 'overstatement' to say 'the entire military is woke' over a few drag shows on bases
Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.AP Photo/Susan Walsh
  • Mark Milley said critics who suggest the military is too "woke" overstate the problem.
  • Critics have pointed to drag shows and the use of critical race theory, both of which Milley said are overstated.

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that critics who paint the US military as "woke" based on drag shows or the use of critical race theory are vastly overstating their case.

"[T]to say that that is, you know, somehow the entire military went woke because a handful of drag queen shows that shouldn't happen to begin with, I think is an overstatement," Milley told The Washington Post's Early 202 newsletter in an interview published on Friday.

Milley, the nation's highest-ranking military officer, said he supported Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's decision to ban drag shows at military bases after some Republican lawmakers sparked an outcry. According to, drag shows at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Ramstein Air Base in Germany were canceled as a result of the policy. Milley emphasized that number of shows was small.

"I don't agree with drag queen shows being on military bases. I don't think that's appropriate," Milley said. "And neither does Secretary Austin. So Secretary Austin put a stop to it. How many times it happened? It happened a few. That's true. Probably shouldn't happen"

Milley also said the overblown perceptions of "wokeness" are affecting the military's recruitment.


Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, who criticized the drag shows, called the Pentagon's new policy a "HUGE VICTORY." Critics have also taken aim at critical race theory, an academic theory that looks at America's history of racism and discrimination through a modern lens. Republicans have successfully added amendments to the Pentagon's must-pass funding bill that would restrict "race-based theories," though it's unclear if those policies will be signed into law. Senate Democrats have drafted their own version of the bill. Milley said the furor over "critical race theory" is also overstated.

"So agree or disagree with critical race theory, it is not a theory that the Department of Defense or the military is embracing and shoving down people's throats," he said.

After repeatedly clashing with President Donald Trump, Milley has tried to navigate the tough balance of defending the nation's armed forces against fierce criticism that the military is becoming over-politicized while also trying to maintain the traditional distance military leaders keep from domestic politics.

Milley is due by law to retire by October, but Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville has threatened to hold up Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr.'s elevation to the top job over an ongoing dispute over the Pentagon's policy to allow servicemembers to take leave if they need an abortion. Already, three military services are without a Senate-confirmed leader, the first time that's happened in the nation's history.