Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is reportedly on the short list to be the next Secretary of Defense, but first he has to mend bridges with LGBT groups.
After it became clear that Hagel could be the new head of the Department of Defense, he came under fire from the gay community for statements he made in 1998. He referred to James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist up for a diplomat appointment, as “openly, aggressively gay,” arguing that he shouldn’t be sent to represent the United States.
“For him to be an appropriate candidate for any administration post,” The New York Times quoted Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign as saying, “he must repudiate his comments about Ambassador Hormel.”
In a statement Friday, Hagel did just that, apologizing and attempting to distance himself from the decade-and-a-half old gaffe.
"My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," he said, NBC News reported. "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.”
General attitudes in America toward LGBT rights have changed a lot in the last 14 years, and it’s quite possible that Hagel’s attitude has changed as well. It’s definitely possible that there was a genuine apology in there, even though it was clearly a politically necessary move.
Regardless of political advantages or the fact that it was a long time ago, it’s good that Hagel apologized, and made it clear that he’ll advocate LGBT rights going forward.
“I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families,” he said in his apology. This was important for him to include because of his previous support for the no-repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.