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The Michelle Manhart Affair: The US Air Force Listens!

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Ms. Michelle Manhart appeared in Playboy's February edition in a range of poses, some in uniform and some without said uniform. The US Air Force responded by releasing a statement, saying, "This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do." Ms. Manhart, who is married with two children, was relieved of her duties while the military investigated. I covered this story in an article with the headline The Michelle Manhart Video: U.S. Air Force Recruitment Tool? My premise was simple, I summarized the article, saying, "It is okay to be a peeping Tom in the armed services, but not to be naked. In fact, it is worse to be photographed naked than to be a sexual predator. Nudity may result in discharge, sexual misconduct is disciplined administratively, with a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay." I also stated that it is a double standard that men are allowed to freely watch nude women in the military with no consequences, sexually assault women, with only minor administrative consequences, yet when one of their own drops her clothes she faces discharge. Two serving women have posed nude in the past, both from the navy. One woman was discharged another woman had already been honorably discharged before her pictures appeared. Apparently, the US Air Force listened. Instead of discharging Ms. Manhart, it was just announced that the US Air Force demoted her from staff sergeant to senior airman. The move also revert Michelle Manhart from extended active duty to Air National Guard status, a move which has now prompted her resignation. Oscar Balladares, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base, emphasized that Lackland did not discharge her. "I'm disappointed in our system. They went too far with it," Manhart told the Associated Press. She has defended her decision to pose for Playboy, pointing out that she had served her country since 1994. But clearly the US Air Force had to do something. And in the end, they realized they couldn't punish Ms. Manhart more harshly than a sexual predator. But of course, they also couldn't stand by as one of their officers publicly dropped her fatigues. This was the correct decision for the US Air Force, and apparently Ms. Manhart feels she too made the right decision. A lot of Playboy-reading soldiers appear to agree with her.
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Peter Rost M.D. Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Vice President of Pfizer. He is the author of "The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman" and "Killer Drug." He also writes the daily Pharma Law Blog and the Pharma Expert Witness (more...)
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