Veteran who protected Old Glory talks to Megyn Kelly about her Playboy past

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. 

Others questioned her past, perhaps a few accusations of hypocrisy.

Americans should be able to agree that our flag deserves to be treated with respect.


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