Chuck Hagel's path to the Pentagon may have hit a speedbump.
The former Nebraska senator, widely considered a finalist to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense, opposed James Hormel's nomination as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg in the late 1990s because Hormel was "openly, aggressively gay."
Buzzfeed and the New York Times reported Thursday evening that in 1998, when Hormel's nomination was before the Senate, Hagel told a Nebraska newspaper that he had concerns about Hormel representing his country because of his sexuality.
“Ambassadorial posts are sensitive," Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald. "They are representing America," he said. "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."
Conservatives in the Senate blocked a vote on Hormel's nomination; then-President Bill Clinton used a recess appointment to place him in the post.
LGBT groups have already expressed concerns about Hagel because in 1999, he expressed opposition to a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Hagel told the New York Times at the time that “the U.S. armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”
The president of the Human Rights Campaign told the Times on Thursday that “(f)or him to be an appropriate candidate for any administration post, he must repudiate his comments about Ambassador Hormel."
Hagel refused comment to the newspaper.