U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is facing strong criticism for mocking and attacking the U.S. Armed Forces and a U.S. Navy JAG Officer who spoke in a video published Wednesday by the U.S. Navy JAG Corps on its Instagram account.
In the video, Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Audrey Knutson tells about an event held aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier named after the 38th President and commissioned by Donald Trump, the 45th President, both Republicans.
The event appears to be one on November 11, 2022, which was sponsored by a suicide prevention group and the ship's Gay, Lesbian, And Supporting Sailors (G.L.A.S.S.) association, according to video published by the U.S. Dept. of Defense's Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).
In the full clip posted by the Navy on Instagram, Knutson explains they are non-binary, and joined the Navy "because my grandfather served in the Navy in World War Two. He was on board the USS Hornet. And he, it means a lot for me to be able to join the Navy because he was gay man in the Navy and he had a really difficult service. So for me to join as non-binary is really powerful to me and something that I'm certainly proud of."
The caption from the U.S. Navy JAG Corps' official verified account reads: "No matter your background, lifestyle, gender, sexuality or religious beliefs, there is a place for you in the Navy."
In the clip Senator Rubio posted, the part about the Officer being non-binary and being from a military family was not included, but it did include this portion of their remarks:
"I was able to deploy on the USS Gerald Ford last fall. And the coolest thing I did on board was be able to participate in an LGBTQ spoken word night, and I was able to read a poem that I wrote to the whole ship and that was probably the culmination of the whole deployment."
On Wednesday, Rubio wrote: "While China prepares for war this is what they have our @USNavy focused on," atop the shortened clip of LTJG Knutson's remarks.
Senator Rubio sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and is the Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee. He has never served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
NCRM contacted Sen. Rubio's office but did not receive a response before press time.
The U.S. DOD's DVIDS website published the video below.
"Tonight was a collaboration between suicide prevention and G.L.A.S.S. to do a spoken word event. For spoken word there's poetry acts, skits, and also any form of verbal and nonverbal showing of love, gratitude," a narrator says. In the video service members talk about the event, and what they experienced, including "gratitude: being grateful for everything that we have."
"So yes, we're stuck on a ship or we are grateful to have friends, family, partners, co workers to be there for us, even when we're so far away from our family."
"When I spoke, I spoke out to my heart. I sent out my messages to all the sailors and all the people who have gone before me that served for the country. I said 'thank you' to America for being the land of the free, and I thank God every day that I get to be who I am."
"Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to speak what's wrong with you. We actually do care, and when people say, 'what's wrong?' most of them want to know what's wrong and they want to help you."
Criticism of Senator Rubio has been strong.
"I served active duty and we have a kick ass military. Stop smearing our military," tweeted U.S Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). "Since you never served in the military, you should know that like in many professions there will be down time. Would you criticize movie night? If not, then it’s just bigotry."
"Providing down time for Servicemembers enhances productivity and focus during duty hours," says the progressive veterans' organization VoteVets. "In addition, promoting diversity and inclusion, including LGBTQ individuals, within the military creates a more united and effective force. BOTH should be prioritized!"
"This is a US Senator denigrating an active member of the US armed forces simply because they are LGBTQ. Simply appalling bigotry," tweeted MSNBC columnist and Daily Beast author Michael A. Cohen.
"While China prepares for war our senators focus on belittling our service members," tweeted activist and March For Our Lives founder David Hogg.
"I have really had it with soft-handed chickenhawks bullying servicemembers. Maybe Senator Rubio should get underway for 8-12 months and show our sailors how to do nothing but work every minute of every day without going insane," says Blake Herzinger, a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
"It is really something to see sitting members of Congress actively put down people who have volunteered to serve in the military over stuff like this," says CNN's Pentagon reporter Haley Britzky.
"Nothing to see here. Just a sitting United States senator attacking an active member of the navy because of his anti-LGBTQ animus," tweeted law professor and political scientist Anthony Michael Kreis.
Watch the videos above or at this link.