Barney Frank has taken a parting shot at Chuck Hagel, a possible nominee for secretary of Defense, saying he strongly opposes Hagel’s appointment because of his antigay record and statements.
Hagel, a former U.S. senator from Nebraska, in 1998 criticized James Hormel, a gay philanthropist nominated by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxembourg, as “openly, aggressively gay” and said that Hormel’s homosexuality could interfere with his ability to do the job. Hagel recently apologized for the comments, but Hormel and others questioned his sincerity, and Hagel also had a record of voting against LGBT causes while in the Senate.
Frank, who is retiring as a U.S. representative from Massachusetts, released a statement Monday opposing Hagel’s potential nomination, The Huffington Post reports. “Then-Senator Hagel’s aggressively bigoted opposition to President Clinton’s naming the first openly gay Ambassador in U.S. history was not, as Sen. Hagel now claims, an aberration,” the gay congressman said. “He voted consistently against fairness for LGBT people and there does not seem to be any evidence prior to his effort to become Secretary of Defense of any apology or retraction of his attack on James Hormel. And to those of us who admire and respect Mr. Hormel, Sen. Hagel’s description of him as aggressive can only mean that the Senator strongly objected to Hormel’s reasoned, civil advocacy for LGBT people.
“I cannot think of any other minority group in the U.S. today where such a negative statement and action made in 1998 would not be an obstacle to a major Presidential appointment.”
President Obama has not yet formally nominated a replacement for outgoing Defense secretary Leon Panetta, but Hagel, a Republican who broke with his party to oppose the war in Iraq, is said to be his top choice. Obama has said Hagel has shown “positive change” in his attitude toward LGBT people.
Frank would not be able to vote on Hagel even if he were staying in Congress, as only members of the Senate vote on cabinet nominations.