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Obama: Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay remarks don’t disqualify him for Cabinet role

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Sunday, December 30, 2012

President Obama said over the weekend during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he won’t rule out the nomination of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary over anti-gay remarks he made in 1998.

Asked by host David Gregory about Hagel’s now high-profile reference to then-nominee for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel as “openly aggressively gay” — remarks for which Hagel has since apologized — Obama said he sees nothing in the former senator’s record that disqualifies him for the position.

“Not that I see,” Obama sad. “I served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He’s a patriot. He is somebody who’s done extraordinary work in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board doing an outstanding job.”

The 30-minute interview was taped on Saturday in the White House, but wasn’t broadcast on TV until Sunday morning.

Additionally, Obama commended Hagel for apologizing for the anti-gay comments. In a statement to media outlets earlier this month, Hagel apologized for the remarks and said he’s committed to LGBT military families. The apology was accepted by LGBT groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign and OutServe-SLDN.

“And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country,” Obama said. “That’s something that I’m very proud to have led, and I think the anybody who’s serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.”

Obama’s remarks about the “positive change” in the country’s attitude toward gays and lesbians echoes similar comments he made during his recent interview with Time Magazine where he also noted the change in perception on LGBT issues.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, an HRC spokesperson, echoed the sense Hagel’s remarks reflect the country’s evolution as a whole on LGBT issues.

“As the President pointed out, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in attitudes on LGBT issues and we’re glad that Senator Hagel apologized for his statement and expressed his commitment to LGBT civil rights,” Cole-Schwartz said. “No matter who is the next defense secretary, we expect that person to ensure equal benefits for all military families and to carry out the President’s policies.”

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9 more reader comments:

  1. not sure i agree

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:03pm
  2. I disagree Mr President, I disagree…

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:06pm
  3. Would a similar nominee who had made a remark like that regarding race beallowed.

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:07pm
  4. Obama, you are wrong here

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:18pm
  5. Let’s suppose for a second that your nominee was a Democrat who had made such an insensitive remark. Do you think they would even get TO a confirmation hearing?

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:42pm
  6. Sorry, Mr. President, but his remarks were unbecoming of someone who can represent America in any way. Other offensive remarks would not be allowed and neither should these.

    We need to draw the line, starting with this man.

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:56pm
  7. Told ya!

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 2:03pm
  8. the point from my perspective is that regardless if he has influence over law or not, he is a person in the eye of the public and people like that DONT get to just change their minds. if he was truly sorry why is there an apology now and not over a decade ago?

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 2:39pm
  9. Whether this may be BS or not, don’t allow yourselves to become the group of people that believes “once a certain way, always a certain way”. People do change and if we as the gay community open our hearts, it will pay off. I’m not saying this a good thing to have him as secretary, I just see too much negativity and hostility from the good side. Peace, love and happiness ya’ll.

    Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 5:55pm