WASHINGTON — Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank Monday denounced the idea of former Sen. Chuck Hagel being considered for secretary of defense, arguing the Nebraska conservative has demonstrated a clear pattern of bigotry and and a track record of being "against fairness for LGBT people."
Hagel's 1998 opposition to former President Bill Clinton nominee James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg — when he accused Hormel of being "aggressively gay" — has angered some LGBT groups, although Hagel recently apologized for the remarks.
"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," Frank said in the statement.
On Meet the Press this Sunday, President Obama said otherwise, telling NBC's David Gregory that he did not see the comments as disqualifying.
Frank, however, disagrees.
"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. 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," Frank said.
Hagel's apology notwithstanding, Log Cabin Republicans ran a full-page ad in The New York Times this past week opposing Hagel's possible nomination and told BuzzFeed that the group doubted the sincerity of his apology. Others have since questioned who funded the Log Cabin ad, but Clarke Cooper would not tell The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald more than that it was funded "by a number of donors."
Although leaving the House, Frank has been talked about as a possible placeholder Senate appointee in Massachusetts until a special election is held for the seat of Sen. John Kerry, who is President Obama's nominee for secretary of state and is expected to have an easy confirmation by his colleagues in the Senate.