Sen. Chuck Hagel Apologizes For Gay Comment Made In 1998

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel apologized for anti-gay remarks he made in 1998 about a nominee for an ambassadorship. The Republican, who is believed to be President Obama’s top pick for defense secretary, apologized for the remarks on Friday.

Hagel did so in a brief written statement, which read that his comments about James C. Hormel, who is openly gay, were “insensitive,” and that they did not reflect his views “or the totality of my public record,” reports The Washington Post.

Hagel, a veteran of the Vietnam War, served two terms in the Senate before he retired in 2009. The original comments by the former senator came during an interview with the Omaha World-Herald in 1998. He stated that he believed that “it is an inhibiting factor” for a US ambassador to be openly gay. He also referred to Hormel as “openly, aggressively gay.”

But in his statement released on Friday, Sen. Hagel apologized and had a different attitude towards the situation. Yahoo! News notes that he wrote:

“I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Americans who may question my commitments to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

Former Sen. Hagel is considered to be a top runner to replace current defense secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon for the president’s second-term cabinet. A number of senators, however, have questioned a nomination for Hagel. Their concerns have mainly been about the former senator’s past comments on Israel and Iran. Some outside groups have taken Hagel’s past comments to mean that he is not completely supportive of Israel.

Along with former Sen. Chuck Hagel, former Pentagon policy chief Michele Flourney and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter are also considered serious candidates for the position.