The Washington Post

Hagel, under fire as possible nominee, says remarks on gays “do not reflect my views”

President Obama’s leading choice to head the Pentagon, former senator Chuck Hagel, issued an apology Friday for “insensitive” comments he had made about gays, moving to shield his potential nomination from a growing chorus of criticism.

Hagel’s apology came a day after the country’s leading gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, described the Nebraska Republican’s past statements and record as “unacceptable.”

The flash point was a 1998 statement opposing the nomination of a gay philanthropist, James Hormel, to be ambassador to Luxembourg. Hagel said at the time that an “openly aggressively gay” diplomat might be an ineffective representative of American values.

“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel said in a written statement issued by his office Friday. “They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.

“I am fully supportive of ‘open service,’ ” he added, “and committed to LGBT military families.”

Chad Griffin, the HRC’s president and a top fundraiser for Obama’s reelection campaign, said Hagel’s apology was appreciated and demonstrated “just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues.”

Hagel’s statement did not address complaints from some pro-Israel activists that he was not sufficiently supportive of the Jewish state during his 12 years in office.

Many conservatives, citing that record and his opposition to former president George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq, have expressed concern about a Hagel nomination.

On Friday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post he intended to oppose Hagel should he get the nod because of a number of positions he has taken.

Gay rights advocates had expressed concern about Hagel in part because the next defense secretary will have to continue the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on openly gay service members.

White House aides in recent days had placed calls to advocates reassuring them that any Defense Department nominee would abide by Obama’s principles on gay rights issues.

A former Hagel aide noted Friday that he did not vote against Hormel’s nomination and is on record opposing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Hagel received support Friday from a group of former generals and admirals, including Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was a top national security adviser to presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush.

“Senator Hagel has stood up for what he believes are the best interests of the United States for many years, regardless of party or politics,” the group wrote. The letter called Hagel a “voice of moderation and balance in an unbalanced time.”

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
He says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything in the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.