James Hormel — the nation’s first openly gay ambassador — questioned the sincerity of an apology that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) issued on Friday over anti-gay remarks he made in 1998.
Hormel pledged to oppose Hagel’s confirmation as defense secretary unless he affirms before the Senate that he will support equal rights for LGBT military families.
Speaking with the Washington Blade from his San Francisco office, Hormel criticized the apology that Hagel issued for calling Hormel “openly aggressively gay” — because it was sent only to media outlets.
“If there is an apology out there in the universe, it hasn’t reached my office,” Hormel added. “So, until that time comes, I’m just doing my work here. When I see an apology, then I’ll consider it.”
Hormel, who since serving in his post in Luxembourg has become a philanthropist and major political donor, further criticized the statement because it was delivered 14 years after the remarks were made and comes at a time when the former senator is seeking high office. President Obama is reportedly considering him for the role of defense secretary, but hasn’t yet made any announcement.
“Fourteen years gives one plenty of time to reconsider and make whatever amends one might wish to make, and there were none made until yesterday,” Hormel said. “Given that he is under consideration for a presidential appointment, one can only wonder [about] the sincerity of the apology — but I haven’t seen the apology, so I can’t even comment on it. I’ve read about it, but I haven’t seen it.”
The apology from Hagel was published in several mainstream media outlets on Friday after questions were raised about Hagel’s commitment to LGBT rights given his anti-gay voting record as a U.S. senator from Nebraska.
“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel was quoted as saying Friday. “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.”
Despite the statement, Hormel said he would oppose the confirmation of Hagel as defense secretary if he doesn’t assert during the confirmation hearings that he supports open service for gay and lesbian service members and pledge to support LGBT military families.