Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel is apologizing for comments he made in 1998 during a debate over the nomination of philanthropist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Hagel came under fire yesterday from gay-rights groups for opposing Hormel’s nomination on the grounds that he was “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel issued the following statement moments ago:
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.
Hagel’s office tells National Review Online they have no comment on the praise he offered in 1997 for the late South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, whom Hagel called a “role model” and an “American hero.”
UPDATE: Texas senator John Cornyn, the GOP whip, is the first senator to state that he would oppose Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. He spoke with the Washington Post about the grounds for his opposition.