Chuck Hagel | James Hormel | News

In What Era Did Chuck Hagel Make Anti-Gay Comments?: VIDEO


On MNSBC this morning, stringer host and The Nation columnist Ari Melber helmed a round table discussion on whether Chuck Hagel's 1998 comments about Ambassador James Hormel being "aggressively gay" should disqualify the former senator from becoming the next Defense Secretary. Or, as some on the panel believe, whether Hagel's comments are from a different era and that his potential nomination should rest instead on his most recent foreign policy, like opposing the surge in Iraq and sanctions against Iran.

Right-leaning Mediaite offers a summary:

"We’re talking about someone who — objectionable comments aside or not, the Senate can consider it – someone who would be a change agent, and why won’t the president fight for that,” Melber asked his panel guests.

"His only truly objectionable comment was his comment on the gay community, which he made about one person who has forgiven him," said managing editor of The Grio, Joy Reid.

"And how long ago," laughed author Catherine Crier.

"Two years after Bill Clinton signed [DOMA]," replied New York Times reporter Nick Confessore. "It was a very different time in gay rights."

"Exactly," Reid agreed.

Mediaite's Noah Rothman makes clear what he thinks of this discussion's direction: it's just another example of MSNBC supporting President Obama.

Considering how emphatically the panel guests of Now attacked Mitt Romney back in May of this year for a poorly sourced report that claimed he and other students had forcefully cut the hair of a fellow classmate who turned out to be gay later in life, one could conclude that MSNBC’s dismissal of Hagel’s anti-gay statements are the benefits of his riding a White House trail balloon. After all, if 1998 was a "different time" in gay rights, 1965 is the gay rights equivalent of the pleistocene era.

But all sins are washed away in the glow of the Obama administration’s approval. Even the bigoted comments of a former Republican office holder. It’s a Christmas miracle.

"Poorly sourced"? Five of Romney's schoolyard peers corroborated the haircut story to the Washington Post; four of them identified themselves.

But, anyway, watch the video of Melber and company discussing Hagel's potential nomination AFTER THE JUMP.

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  1. Who cares about that one remark? Hagel's record as Senator was extremely anti-gay from 2000 to 2008. The only HRC-recommended action he took (out of about 30) was on HIV, related to PEPFAR and the HIV travel ban. He voted against ENDA, PPIA, UAFA, hate crimes act, and he voted for the marriage amendment twice, and for very conservative judges.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 26, 2012 2:29:15 PM

  2. I agree with Randy. Sen. Hagel should also be judged by his anti-gay actions; namely uniform opposition to all gay rights and support for all anti-gay legislation over the decades he served in the Senate. Just wish that bloggers, pundits and journelists could handle more than one aspect of a multi-part story.

    Posted by: Eric | Dec 26, 2012 2:39:23 PM

  3. We can do better than Chuck Hagel. We deserve better than Chuck Hagel.

    There is no need for Chuck Hagel.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Dec 26, 2012 3:12:24 PM

  4. His political affiliation alone disqualifies him. Let him change parties, otherwise there are plenty of well qualified Democrats for the position.

    We don' need no stinkin' Republicans.

    Posted by: TomTallis | Dec 26, 2012 3:35:43 PM

  5. I think Chuck Hagel would make an excellent Sec of Defense. He is a wounded warrior who like John Kerry and the president, believes that the use of our military should be a last resort. He will face strong opposition from the "chicken hawk" republican neocons who believe that military intervention should be at the top of the list of foreign policy options. As to his previous statements on gays, he was representing the very Red State of Nebraska in the Senate. As Sec of Defense he will be following President Obama's lead. Hagel has stated that he supports "open service" and equality for gays in the military. I think we should forgive his past actions. However, we should not forget, and we should watch closely how he carries out his new attitude toward the rights of gay people in the military.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 26, 2012 3:40:40 PM

  6. Substitute "black" or "Hispanic" or "Jewish" for "gay" and see if you'd buy that argument. If you wouldn't stand for it, then you shouldn't dismiss this as "from a different era." Hate does not have eras or epochs. Hate is hate, and he needs to explain himself. Aggressively.

    Posted by: Craig | Dec 26, 2012 4:12:29 PM

  7. He would NOT make an "excellent" anything.

    Plus, he's too "aggressively" heterosexual.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Dec 26, 2012 4:20:51 PM

  8. Agree with the sentiments that if nominated and confirmed, he should be watched closely by advocate groups. Wish we had Robert Gates back... Much more thoughtful, and open to change, individual.

    That said- Mediaite is definitely not a right-leaning site. At least not from what I've seen. But otherwise a good story and summation.

    Posted by: Scott | Dec 26, 2012 4:30:02 PM

  9. Was anyone on that panel Gay? If not, I could careless what they think is Gay or anti-Gay.

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 26, 2012 4:30:13 PM

  10. If anyone is effective in promoting equality, then the reality is that people's minds will have been changed. People that once opposed equality, no matter how "aggressively", should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to change with the rest of the country. He may have voted anti-gay as of 2008, but that was nearly 5 years ago and he may have the right to have evolved. I'm with those that "watch closely". You may see the equality movement in action, if you allow it!

    Posted by: Isaak | Dec 26, 2012 4:41:44 PM

  11. Hagel has NOT apologized. Saying that the remarks were "insensitive" is a weasly way of saying "I'm sorry if you were offended.", which is NOT the same as admitting that his opinions were bigoted and wrong.

    And what affirmatively has he done SINCE then to promote equality? Where are his statements of regret prior to a potential cabinet nomination? I don't think that simply treating one or two gay social acquaintances civilly and decently in person is much evidence of changed attitudes.

    Agree that his entire anti-gay record is what matters. There really is NOTHING of substance in his recent record to counter-balance the damage he inflicted.

    Go away, Hagel.

    Posted by: Fake Apologies Don't Cut It | Dec 26, 2012 4:49:47 PM

  12. It is worth noting here that President Clinton signed both DADT and DOMA and President Obama took a long time to "evolve" on the issue of same sex marriage and that General Colin Powell was an architect of DADT. Now all three are in favor of full equality for gay people. Chuck Hagel now says he supports "open service" and equal treatment for gay people in the military. People change. And yes, it is sometimes their own self interest that brings about the change.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 26, 2012 5:23:27 PM

  13. There are many reasons to oppose Chuck Hagel for Secreetary of Defense besides Israel, Anti-Semitism and Iran.

    You can argue that singling out only Jews for exerting too much influence is not anti-semetic. You could argue that the US should accept an Iranian nuclear weapons program or even an Iranian ICBM program. You could argue that Israel should withdraw to the

    1967 armistice lines from which it was attacked in return for nothing and still be pro-Israel.

    But to me he is the stereotypical Archie Bunker type bigot.

    He was obviously a bigot before, but has he ever lifted a finger to help gays achieve equality between then and now?

    His policies have been anti gay (even now after his late and self serving apology he doesn't support equal benefits for gay military families. He is anti-African American (with a 17/100 rating from NAACP and admires Strom Thurmond as a great role model. anti Woman (vs choice and contraception)


    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.

    Posted by: Jean | Dec 26, 2012 7:18:59 PM

  14. Obama wouldn't have won without the LGBT vote - our vote. Its time we stop giving him a free pass - its time we make our votes count. Why should an anti-gay bigot be given such an important and influential post. Its disgusting that Obama can take our votes for granted in this way. If Obama nominates this anti-gay creep0 I am never voting Democratic again - angry as hell....

    Posted by: Earn my Vote | Dec 26, 2012 10:40:08 PM

  15. I guess that means we should bring back Sam Nunn for a cabinet post now too. After all, his own anti-gay actions were soooo in 90s and his name was floated once before only to shot down like a lead balloon.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Dec 26, 2012 10:43:28 PM

  16. Discrimination against gay people is still very much a part of our era. There are gay people being denied housing, employment and promotions using Hagel's exact same line of thought.

    Discrimination was not justifiable in 1998. In 1968? Maybe. But not 1998. Discrimination against gay people is completely legal in most US states--indeed most. Countless people have used their right to discriminate against gay people this year. Should they be forgiven without a sincere apology in 15 years? (Opportunistic nonpologies don't count.)

    Posted by: Kyle | Dec 26, 2012 11:25:27 PM

  17. @Earn my vote " Obama wouldn't have won without the LGBT vote" or the Black vote or the Hispanic vote or the Jewish vote or the Asian vote or the female vote or the tens of millions of white votes. Your comment that if he nominates Hagel you will never vote democrat again is one of the dumbest comments ever posted on a site filled with dumb comments.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 27, 2012 2:23:35 AM

  18. And what does it say about Obama's commitment to gay-equality issues when he favors a known anti-gay bigot like Hagel to take over the continuing repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell? Didn't Obama's supporters promise that after the election Obama would finally turn into that "fierce advocate" he promised to be?

    LOL. Fierce FRAUD.

    Posted by: Wayne | Dec 27, 2012 7:07:40 AM

  19. You all need reminding that Obama is not a Liberal but a moderate pragmatist. He needs to explain why a bigot is even being considered.

    Posted by: DC Arnold | Dec 27, 2012 8:01:08 AM

  20. If Hagel's views have truly evolved and he publicly commits to be supportive of gay men and women surving in the military, I would love to see him in the Obama cabinet, for Republicans hate him far more than any other group. He'll never be forgiven for not toeing the party line on Iraq, or for his occasional endorsements of Democratic Party candidates, such as Bob Kerry who recently lost the Senate election in Nebraska. This plus his willingness to be critical of Israel will sink his nomination, not his past anti-gay stances.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Dec 27, 2012 10:40:05 AM

  21. Who cares what "era" he made them. The point is he MADE them at all, and shows a lack of good judgement. I woudnt vote for a reformed KKK memeber, so i wont support Hagel either. Glad he's "evolved" though!

    Posted by: Chicklets | Dec 27, 2012 11:57:09 AM

  22. Some gay people should learn that not everything revolves around us. There are sometimes other issues of importance. Like getting a wounded warrior who believes that war should be the last resort confirmed as Sec of Defense. The fact that the Chicken Hawk Neocon republicans, who never served in war, but love it, oppose him should give his leftists critics pause. The fact that the Israeli Lobby, who believe that the U.S. should rubber stamp all the policies of the Right Wing Israeli government, oppose him should give American nationalists pause. The fact that the Log Cabin Republicans oppose him should give gay people pause.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 28, 2012 1:10:33 AM

  23. Why is anyone even an activist if you believe that people cannot learn & change their opinions/behaviors? A lot of men from Hagel's generation have had to come far to understand gay rights(often to embrace gay children). Communication with Hagel now, instead of condemnation for a 1998 remark, might be a better approach. Even tho he would generally tow the line as Secty of Defense, he has the sense (and combat experience) to want dialogue before war. Even more important, he has not succumbed to the overwhelming & constant pressure of the pro-Israel lobby who put a foreign power's interest over ours. The pro-Israel lobby is pushing the agenda of another nation, putting money behind fighting Hagel's nomination & using gay people as a front, i.e. The Log Cabin Republicans. Who is mad about that?

    Posted by: Maggi | Dec 28, 2012 1:36:27 AM

  24. @Maggi: I totally agree with you. I have read that Obama really wants Hagel. Hopefully he will stand up and fight for his choice. I really like Obama, but I wish he was more assertive and threw his weight around more. He won a clear victory in November, in spite of all the money, dirty tricks and vitriol used to defeat him. He is sometimes too much the intellectual professor and not enough the "give em hell" Harry Truman.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 28, 2012 4:18:23 AM

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