Former Sen. Chuck Hagel apologized today for a remark he made in 1998 that was disparaging toward an openly gay nominee for a U.S. ambassadorship.
Hagel — widely considered one of the frontrunners for the nomination as secretary of defense — issued an apology today, according to Politico. He apologized for criticizing James C. Hormel for being “openly, aggressively gay.”
He told the Omaha-World Herald at the time that ambassador posts are sensitive and represent America.
“‘They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards,” he said. “And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.’”
As opposition to Hagel’s nomination began growing based on the comment, Hagel’s aide released a statement saying, ““My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”
Opposition from the gay rights community comes amid concerns from Jewish groups and Israel supporters who don’t like Hagel’s past comments on Israel and Iran. The Emergency Committee for Israel has bought ads attacking Hagel — a decorated Vietnam veteran — as soft on Iran.
Hagel, a moderate Republican, represented Nebraska in the Senate from 1997 to 2009.