Former senator Chuck Hagel, said to be on the short list to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense, reportedly tried to shut down a USO port in the Israeli city of Haifa when he served as CEO of the USO. The Washington Free Beacon reports:
“He said to me, ‘Let the Jews pay for it’,” said Marsha Halteman, director for military and law enforcement programs at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which led the battle to keep USO Haifa operational.
Hagel’s campaign to close the storied USO port struck many observers, including the U.S. Navy and congressional leaders, as misguided. Those same critics argue today that Hagel’s animosity toward the Jewish state leaves him unsuited to be the nation’s next defense secretary.
“He essentially told us that if we wanted to keep the USO [in Haifa] open—and when I say ‘we’, he meant ‘the Jews’—he said the Jews could pay for it,” said Halteman, who recalled being taken aback by the comment.
“I told him at the time that I found his comments to be anti-Semitic,” she said. “He was playing into that dual loyalty thing.”
Hagel has been accused of anti-Semitism for charging that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are intimidated by the”Jewish lobby,” and of homophobia for remarks he made in a 1998 confirmation hearing, for which he has since apologized. Outgoing representative Barney Frank, as well as senators Tom Coburn and John Cornyn have publicly expressed their opposition to his nomination.