The Air Force veteran who became an Internet celebrity last week when she saved an American flag being trampled by protesters spoke out Monday on “The Kelly File” about why she acted — and about the semi-nude photos she’s appeared in covered only by Old Glory.
Michelle Manhart was arrested in her altercation with the protesters at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. She was not charged, however, and campus police returned the flag to the demonstrators.
Fox News’ Megan Kelly asked Manhart what she found so objectionable that motivated her to intervene.
“They were walking on it, kicking it, throwing it on the ground. Just disrespecting it in every manner possible,” Manhart said.
“It’s my freedom, it’s your freedom, it’s everybody in America’s freedom,” she said. “I don’t think I can turn a blind eye to that anywhere, even if I saw [the protest] walking down the street just randomly, I wouldn’t have been able to turn my eye to it.”
Kelly asked why the flag, in particular, means so much to Manhart.
Manhart explained that she was raised with respect for America. “Being in the military, we learned to respect the flag and defend the flag at all costs,” she said. “That flag is a symbol of our freedom.”
Midway through the interview, Manhart addressed what’s on many Americans’ minds — her photo shoot with Playboy in 2007 and a subsequent picture spread she was part of where the flag was draped around Manhart’s otherwise nude body.
The nude flag photos, she said, were shot for the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is famous for using nude or partially nude women in its attention-grabbing advertisements to convince consumers not to buy fur clothing.
Manhart said the flag photos reflected her beliefs that even when Americans have lost everything, they have the rights that flag symbolizes.
“When you’re at your lowest,” she said, “you will always have your freedom if you stand behind that flag.”
Kelly moved on to concerns that the entire incident was a publicity stunt, and asked why Manhart brought her daughter to record it with a cell phone.
Manhart denied it “100 percent, you have my honor and my word it was not a publicity stunt,” she said.
She explained that her daughter accompanied her just to be by her side, and commended her daughter for recording the incident.
Defending her past, Manhart told Kelly that she was not dishonorably discharged for appearing in Playboy — she said the Air Force would allow her to re-enlist if the wanted, and that her husband is still serving, with 22 years in uniform, overseas in South Korea.
Many Twitter users were thankful Manhart stood up for the flag.
Thank you Michelle Manhart for standing up for our flag. #kellyfile — Andrew L. (@AndyLbd73) April 21, 2015
RED WHITE AND BLUE Skynrd dedicated to my new hero #MichelleManhart https://t.co/Y5ctJquzmY pic.twitter.com/EjBnrueaJz
— Franci (@LadySandersfarm) April 19, 2015
I applaud you, ma’am! ‘Air Force vet detained for taking US flag being walked on by protesters’ http://t.co/qqKTTG2Rvi #MichelleManhart — David Quesada (@DQuesada) April 19, 2015
Air Force vet #MichelleManhart picked up an American flag off the ground that ‘protestors’ at #ValdostaState were walking on. God bless her.
— Quincy Jackson (@qrayjack) April 19, 2015
Thank you #MichelleManhart for being the one to stand up for the American flag while others stood by and watched and for your service. — David LaPell (@DaveLapell) April 18, 2015
Others questioned her past, perhaps a few accusations of hypocrisy.
Yup #MichelleManhart you need to watch yourself before you wreck yourself. pic.twitter.com/nW8lk6NWKh
— Chris Harter (@Chris_Harter91) April 19, 2015
@samsrunniniron for being a hypocrite? I respect her actions for taking the flag but you can’t pose with the flag and its on the ground too. — Chris Harter (@Chris_Harter91) April 19, 2015
@samsrunniniron everyone has sins but you can’t act all high and mighty if there’s evidence proving that you’re disgracing the flag too.
— Chris Harter (@Chris_Harter91) April 19, 2015
Americans should be able to agree that our flag deserves to be treated with respect.
@valdostastate students who mistreated US Flag you r embarrassment to all educated citizens. Should be arrested & deport. #MichelleManhart — Dawn Clark (@dawnsair) April 18, 2015
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