Former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel said on MSNBC that he accepts Chuck Hagel’s apology over comments Hagel made 15 years ago. Hagel had criticized Hormel based on his sexual orientation in an interview with the Omaha World Herald in 1998, saying he felt Hormel was unfit to serve as a U.S. ambassador because Hormel is gay.
“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,” Hagel had said. He apologized publicly last December following his nomination to be President Obama’s Defense Secretary, but Hormel told the Washington Post that he questioned Hagel’s sincerity.
“I thought this so-called apology, which I haven’t received, but which was made public, had the air of being a defensive move on his part,” Hormel told the Post.
But Hormel is now walking back his skepticism, telling Thomas Roberts on Friday morning that he accepts Hagel’s apology and believes it to be sincere and honest.
“I’ve had the opportunity to examine the circumstances, and what I find is a person who has done something which is unique,” Hormel said, stating that Hagel’s proactive apology at a time when he is being considered for an important government position is rare. “You don’t hear apologies coming from people in Washington. You hear pseudo apologies…but there was no ‘if’ in this one.”
Hormel added that Hagel’s commitment to support the LGBT members in the armed services is important and should be acknowledged. “It seems to me that having that on the table made it something he would not be able to back away from.”
Hormel concluded that Hagel’s 1998 comments were due in part to political pressure from his party, and has no doubt that Hagel would now take an active role in enforcing equality. “After all, he was a brand new senator. He was under pressure from the political leadership of his party, and I think he was responding to circumstances that no longer exist.”