Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank says he's "strongly opposed" to former Sen. Chuck Hagel becoming the next Defense secretary due to remarks the Nebraska Republican made about an openly gay ambassadorial nominee in 1998.
Hagel apologized earlier this month for calling former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel “aggressively gay” in a 1998 interview where he explained his opposition to Hormel’s confirmation.
But Frank isn't buying it.
“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,” Frank said in a statement reported by The Hill.
“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,” said Frank, who was the first openly gay member of Congress.
Frank’s stand against Hagel’s nomination is the latest obstacle for the Obama administration — which has put Hagel at the top of its short list of candidates to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — in its decision whether to nominate Hagel.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement blasting Hagel for his 1998 comments earlier this month, and the Log Cabin Republicans took out an ad in The New York Times to criticize the former Nebraska senator.
Meanwhile, other Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York are at best offering tepid support for Hagel, who is under fire also for remarks made about Israel and what Hagel has called the "Jewish Lobby" in Washington. Hagel also has supported diplomatic engagement with Hamas and Iran.
And Republicans like Oklahoma's Tom Coburn and Lindsey Graham also are unlikely to confirm Hagel.
Graham said on Sunday there was very little support among Republicans for Chuck Hagel as defense secretary if President Barack Obama decides to nominate him.
"If he sends Chuck Hagel up, it will be a confirmation hearing of consequence," Graham said on Fox News Sunday. "There would be very little Republican support for his nomination, at the end of the day, there will be very few votes."
While Frank is leaving Congress at the end of the year, he is an influential leader among gay rights advocates and other elements of the Democrats' liberal base.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, offered strong support for Hagel but said in remarks aired on Sunday he has not yet decided on a nominee for the Pentagon post.
"I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview taped on Saturday and broadcast on Sunday.
Obama said he has seen nothing that would disqualify Hagel.
The president said Hagel had apologized for his comments related to homosexuality, referred to by NBC's David Gregory in the interview.
"With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it," Obama said.
"And I think it's a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people's attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country. And that's something that I'm very proud to have led."
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