Is he really sorry?

In 1998, then-Senator Chuck Hagel stated that President Bill Clinton’s Ambassador-designate James Hormel was “openly, aggressively gay,” which was “an inhibiting factor” in his ability to perform “an effective job” as Ambassador to Luxembourg.

Now that Hagel is in the running to succeed Leon Panetta as Barack Obama’s Defense Department Secretary, he’s issued an apology. To Politico‘s Mike Allen. Via a statement. Issued through an aide:

“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

Here’s the article about Hagel, opposing James Hormel’s nomination:

The Omaha World-Herald reported in 1998: “Ambassadorial posts are sensitive, Hagel explained. ‘They are representing America,’ he said [in an interview]. ‘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.’”


Now comes James Hormel, who has this to say about the “apology” provided by an aide of Chuck Hagel to Tiger Beat on the Potomac‘s premiere aggregator of yesterday’s news and gossip-mongerer and birthday-rememberer, Mike Allen. Reports WaPo’s Greg Sargent:

But in an interview this afternoon, the target of the 1998 slur, leading gay philanthropist James Hormel, told me he never received an apology from Hagel himself, questioned the sincerity of the apology, and said the incident should still raise questions about whether Hagel is the right man to oversee the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell.

“I have not received an apology,” Hormel, who is a major figure in Democratic politics, told me. “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 added that the apology appeared to have been given “only in service of his attempt to get the nomination.”

Even worse in public life than the non-apology apology is the non-apology non-apology: the one when you announce you’ve apologized to someone and then that someone says, um, no — I haven’t got that apology. Former Senator Hagel can say all he wants that he’s apologized to James Hormel, but if James Hormel says he didn’t get that apology, I believe the Ambassador.

Who added:

But Hormel told me that Hagel’s comments — and the nature of his apology — raise questions as to whether he’s the right guy to ensure that “the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell is fully implemented as quickly as possible in ways that will have the least deleterious effect.”

Of Hagel’s comment, Hormel added: “If it were made today, it would be clearly disqualifying.”

Of course, any reporter in a position to ask Chuck Hagel’s aide, as he provided the second-hand statement claiming an apology, the obvious question “And what was the Ambassador’s response? Did he accept the Senator’s apology?” might have asked just that.

But that’s asking too much of Mike Allen, Politico’s premiere reporter.

Your move, Mr “Are-You-Really?” Defense Secretary.