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Obama Defends Hagel, Says Apology For Remarks Shows “Positive Change”

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Both conservatives and progressives are giving Sen. Chuck Hagel the stink eye, but President Obama is defending the presumed Secretary of Defense nominee, saying his apology for anti-gay remarks should be taken at face value.

Since his name was first floated Hagel has been criticized for an interview he gave in 1998, in which he claimed James Hormel shouldn’t be appointed ambassador to Luxembourg because he was “aggressively gay.”

Hagel, who also vociferously opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, apologized last week, saying his comments didn’t “reflect my views or the totality of my public record,

On Meet the Press yesterday, the President called Hagel a “patriot” and said he’s eminently qualified to run the Department of Defense, though he didn’t go so far as to announce his nomination. Obama also said he accepted Hagel’s apology.

“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,” the President told host David Gregory. “And I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.”