U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate, said Monday she would not to commit to supporting former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary until she is more confident that his apology for anti-gay remarks he made in 1998 is “sincere.”
“I do want to speak with him, particularly about his comments 14 years ago, to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient,” Baldwin said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue in the the last 14 years.”
In 1998, Hagel opposed President Bill Clinton’s nomination of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, saying as a gay man he couldn’t be effective as a top diplomat.
“They are representing America,” Hagel told the Omaha World Herald. “They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay – openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel – to do an effective job.”
In a statement to the Washington Post last month, Hagel issued an apology, stating, “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.”
Baldwin said Hagel’s position on gay rights issues was particularly important because of the ongoing process following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowing openly gay troops to serve in the military.