Dear Mr. Secretary,
I served in the United States Navy from 2004 until I was honorably discharged in 2008. As a veteran, I am familiar with the Armed Forces Network; AFN TV was available aboard ship, and AFN Radio was available at most of the Navy bases my unit visited on overseas deployments.
When I was deployed, I greatly appreciated AFN; it was a slice of home. I generally found the programming selection to be excellent, and I appreciated that there did not appear to be any form of ideological censorship. While some shows were not to my taste, others were, and in general most were well-received by a majority of the people with whom I served.
But Mr. Secretary, while AFN provides a wide variety of programming and does not engage in ideological censorship, it does not simply air anything and everything available. I am not familiar with the details of the selection process for AFN broadcasting, but as with all other aspects of military life, I am certain that it is done with care under a framework of regulations. I don't believe AFN has ever carried pornography, for instance, and in all my time deployed I never saw or heard any material that attacked or defamed the United States military, any of its branches, or its members, or that created a hostile work environment for any group.
Mr. Secretary, it has come to my attention that one of the shows carried on AFN recently aired a tirade that viciously attacked a young woman for testifying to Congress in support of insurance funding for birth control. In the show, the young woman was called a "slut" and likened to a "prostitute" for using insurance-funded birth control, the taxpayers who contribute to the insurance were likened to "johns", and the host demanded that she post videos of herself having sex because the taxpayers (by his logic) were paying her to have sex.
As a United States Sailor, I benefited from taxpayer-funded birth control. It was provided to me at no cost on my first day of boot camp immediately following my immunizations, and I was able to continue to receive birth control and related medical care at no cost for the duration of my term of service. The majority of female Sailors elect to take advantage of the birth control that is provided by military healthcare facilities, beginning in basic training, where (as I'm sure you're well aware) sexual activity is forbidden. The United States Navy is well aware of the health, economic, and mission benefits of hormonal birth control and strongly encourages it. All Sailors of both sexes are aware of the availability and the strong promotion of birth control, family planning, and women's health services.
I find it difficult to believe that the U.S. Navy - or any other branch - thinks it appropriate to broadcast to servicemembers material which clearly implies that female servicemembers are "sluts" or "prostitutes" for using their legal, earned healthcare benefits including birth control, or that the Department of Defense and American taxpayers are "johns" who are "paying [women servicemembers] to have sex". I certainly find that sort of statement absolutely unacceptable as a veteran and a taxpayer.
My objection here is not political or ideological. While I do not like the program in question and am opposed to Rush Limbaugh's politics, I appreciate that a wide variety of political views from all sides of the spectrum are aired on AFN. My objection is to this particular program's abusive language and its defamatory attacks on a wide swath of Americans and American government programs, including most female servicemembers and the Department of Defense itself, simply for supporting and using programs to which the host is politically opposed.
I think being called "prostitutes" at work over a radio program funded and provided by one's employer is almost the very definition of a hostile work environment. I hope you agree, and I hope you will seriously consider cutting off ties between the Department of Defense and the individual who said it.
Thank you for your time.