Chuck Hagel Apologizes for ‘Insensitive’ Anti-Gay Remarks , Says He is Committed to Open Service, LGBT Military Families

In an effort to remain a viable candidate for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel apologized on Friday for remarks he made in 1998, criticizing the appointment of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg because of Hormel's "aggressively gay" values:

Hagel"They are representing America," Hagel said of ambassadors…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."

Said Hagel today to Politico, via an aide:

“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.”

Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson released a statement in reaction to Hagel's apology:

"We are pleased that Senator Hagel recognized the importance of retracting his previous statement about Ambassador Hormel and affirming his commitment to Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal and LGBT military families. We look forward to learning more about his commitment to full LGBT military equality as this nomination and confirmation process unfolds."


  1. Emmy says

    seems more like opportunism than sincerity. He said what he really felt all those years ago, and it seems he is saying this now just so he’ll get nominated. But whatever..

  2. Total This Up, Fool! says

    His comments were not merely ‘insensitive’. They were bigoted and wrong. And as for the “totality of his record”, if he has any positive record at all on GLBT rights, I’d expect to see it in detail, not alluded to with some throwaway cliché of a phrase like ‘totality of my record’.

    Until he acknowledges the wrongness of his comments, I can’t imagine why he’s even being considered. The Defense Department doesn’t need another warmed-over white corpse of a retread. There are better candidates available.

  3. Kyle says

    I’ve heard that sentiment before many times, that a gay person would be an unsuitable representative for something, as a salesman for a company or realtor, for example. A lot of anti-gay discrimination–perfectly legal in many places–uses this exact same reasoning. The idea that a gay man couldn’t represent the USA and should be discriminated against is disgusting. It deserves a stronger apology.

  4. says

    This sounds like the back pedaling of someone who put his foot in his mouth 14 years ago who didn’t think he would ever be held accountable and now realizes that his future may be controlled by those words, he doesn’t deserve the post and the words he spoke 14 years ago make him a bad choice for the position.

  5. TonyJazz says

    So many people end up apologizing to us after making unfortunate comments of bigotry—for whatever reasons.

    I guess we should accept this apology, though I’d like to see a thorough vetting of his voting record.

  6. e.c. says

    It’s no excuse for what he said, but it was 14 years ago so I’ll allow him that his views may have evolved. If we don’t give people the room to change their minds there isn’t going to be any incentive for them to just that. And not to be cynical, but the extra scrutiny he’ll be under because of his anti-gay past may force him to promote non-discrimination more strongly that he otherwise would.

  7. says

    He forgot the standard line about all his gay friends and how they know those remarks don’t represent his true self. Isn’t that a required part of statements like this?

  8. Chitown Kev says

    Well, we see that hagel wants the job…

    If, as Hagel states, those 1998 comments “do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record,” then what are your current views?

    Frankly, this s atatement is a start. Assuming that he will not be running for any more elected offices, I would love for him to get drilled on this by the Senate.

    Then his public views, under oath, will be for the public record.

  9. Yupp says

    Tonyjazz : That’s still better, though, than people- both gay and straight- who will never apologize even after they know they were wrong.

  10. jleo71 says

    It took 14 years to get that apology and only after the fact that he might be appointed to a cabinet post. What an insincere bastard.

  11. Victor says

    Let’s take him at his own word – let’s look at his record. This is what I found:

    He voted twice (2x) against expanding the hate crimes definition to include LGBTs.
    And he’s been strongly opposed to extending domestic partnership benefits (not my phrasing).

    This is more than just a phrase he said. He actively voted against the LGBT interests.

  12. Derrick from Philly says

    Well, Gay folks are reacting as they should to Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination, but sometimes people do change– ESPECIALLY if they hold a position in government where changes have to be enforced.

    Many Black and Jewish folks were furious at FDR for nominating Hugo Black to the Supreme Court back in the 1940s. He was an ex-Ku Klux Klansman.

    When Hugo Black died the state officials in Alabama refused to allow his body to be brought to his native home. He was such a strong supporter of civil rights on the court that they considered him a traitor and a “n.gger lover”.

    People can change.

  13. Terrance says

    Is Chuck Hagel the ONLY person in a country of nearly a third of a billion people who could do the job? NOPE.

    Too bad, so sad.

    Next candidate, please…!

  14. jason says

    For someone who allegedly supports open service, he spoke out strongly against it (open service and repeal of dadt) in his last senate term. So that seems surprising and dishonest to me.

  15. Bob says

    If we do not leave room for people to sincerely come around to a 2012 point of view, and hold them to the past, no matter what — THAT MEANS WE WONT HAVE VERY MANY FRIENDS OVER 40

  16. Victor says


    Has he really come around? Why hasn’t he spoken up before the nomination? He’s had 2+ years to change his opinion and talk about it publicly. He still can. Have an actual talk about it, not just a throwaway non-apology like in this case.

  17. Jeff Atwood says

    I don’t agree about giving bullies a pass, and Hagel is a bully and an opportunist. Like Romney, Hagel changes his judgement to whatever works to his advantage, whatever way the wind is blowing. Fledgling bullies learn that they can torment now and, if ever held to account, give a half-hearted “apology” then move on; I don’t buy that. Make someone go down for their homophobia and bullying and homophobia will stop; otherwise it will persist, forever. Surely there has to be another Republican who is not a bigot and could do this job.

  18. Reggie says

    If he had had a change of heart after all these years, why is it we’ve only heard of it now when he might be up for a position? And if it were genuine, don’t you think he’d have contacted the person he attacked, some time over the past 14 years, to at least say “Sorry”, personally? No… He is cut from the same cloth as mitt… say what is expected to get by.

  19. andrew says

    Chuck Hagel would be an excellent choice for Sec of Defense. He is a wounded warrior who like John Kerry sees the U.S. use of military forces as the very last resort. His views on foreign policy and military issues are about the same as Pres Obama’s. Some of the “talking heads” have said that Chuck Hagel is “Barack Obama with a war record”.

  20. James says

    I could care less if he is anti-gay, which I don’t believe he is. Hagel’s views on a less aggressive foreign policy and reduced military spending are refreshing and would be a change over Obama’s first term.

  21. James says

    I could care less if he is anti-gay, which I don’t believe he is. Hagel’s views on a less aggressive foreign policy and reduced military spending are refreshing and would be a change over Obama’s first term.

  22. Jean says

    Hormel has said he would only accept this 14 year late apology if Hagel commits to equal benefits for gay military families. Don’t hold your breath Hagel is still a bigot.

    Here is some other problems with this man

    Hagel has drawn additional heat from insiders who claim he lacks the credentials needed to manage a department as large and essential as the Pentagon.

    “Yes, Hagel has crazy positions on several key issues. Yes, Hagel has said things that are borderline anti-Semitism. Yes, Hagel wants to gut the Pentagon’s budget. But above all, he’s not a nice person and he’s bad to his staff,” said a senior Republican Senate aide who has close ties to former Hagel staffers.

    “Hagel was known for turning over staff every few weeks—within a year’s time he could have an entirely new office because nobody wanted to work for him,” said the source. “You have to wonder how a man who couldn’t run a Senate office is going to be able to run an entire bureaucracy.”

    Others familiar with Hagel’s 12 year tenure in the Senate said he routinely intimidated staff and experienced frequent turnover.

    “Chuck Hagel may have been collegial to his Senate colleagues but he was the Cornhusker wears Prada to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “He might get away with that when it comes to staffers in their 20s, but that sort of personality is going to go over like a ton of bricks at the Pentagon.”

    Multiple sources corroborated this view of Hagel.

    “As a manager, he was angry, accusatory, petulant,” said one source familiar with his work on Capitol Hill. “He couldn’t keep his staff.”

    “I remember him accusing one of his staffers of being ‘f—ing stupid’ to his face,” recalled the source who added that Hagel typically surrounded himself with those “who basically hate Republicans.”

    Sources expressed concern about such behavior should Hagel be nominated for the defense post. With competing military and civilian interests vying for supremacy, the department requires a skilled manager, sources said.

    “The Pentagon requires strong civilian control,” a senior aide to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the Free Beacon. “It’s already swung back in favor of the military over the past five years. A new secretary of defense should push it back in its rightful place, but it’s doubtful Hagel would be that guy.”

    “It’s not clear that [Hagel] has the standing, the managerial prowess, or the willingness to gore some oxen,” said the source.

    One senior Bush administration official warned that Hagel is ill informed about many critical foreign policy matters.

    “He’s not someone who’s shown a lot of expertise on these issues,” said the source, referencing a recent Washington Post editorial excoriating Hagel’s record. “That [op-ed] was extraordinary.”

    “Only in Washington,” the official added, “can someone like [Hagel] be seen as a heavy weight. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

    Hagel is likely viewed positively by the administration mainly because he is a Republican who often criticizes his own party, the source said.

    “He’ll dance to a tune played by the White House,” said the former official. “That I think is the real problem.”

    As lawmakers consider a deal to avoid sweeping budgets cuts and tax hikes, Hagel’s support for slashing spending at the Pentagon has irked many defense hawks.

    “This is a time when a secretary of defense needs to be raising hell about the sequestration cuts,” said the Rumsfeld aide. “It’s not clear that Hagel has any interest in picking that fight.”

    Hagel’s reluctance to chastise Iran also remains a central concern.

    As chief of the Pentagon it is expected he would avoid planning for a military intervention should Tehran refuse to end its clandestine nuclear enrichment program.

    “The military brass is already reluctant to offer up any military options on Iran even though it’s their job to have something on the books and to leave the options of the commander in chief open,” said the Rumsfeld aide. “Hagel will only reinforce these worrisome tendencies.”

    “Chances are he’ll view any legitimate effort to talk about military options with Iran as some plot by the ‘Israel Lobby’ to box him in,” the source said.

  23. DC Arnold says

    I’m more angry at the President for nominating/seeming to nominate old white men when perfectly good minorities get passed over without consideration. His tepid support of Susan Rice after angrily telling repugs to back off reinforced the President as soft notion.