In an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press today, President Obama defended former Senator Chuck Hagel who has been named as a possible candidate to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, saying he doesn’t see anything in Chuck Hagel’s record or statements that disqualifies him from serving as Secretary of Defense. “I served with Chuck Hagel, I know him, he’s a patriot. Chuck Hagel served this country with valor in Vietnam. He is currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job,” said the President.
Hagel has made several controversial statements over the years which have been brought to the fore recently be opponents of his appointment. He recently apologized for saying in 1998 that a possible appointee for US ambassador to Luxembourg was unqualified because he was “openly, aggressively gay.” He has not rescinded his statement that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here” (in Congress).
President Obama said that Chuck Hagel’s apology for his 1998 remarks is a “testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade with gays and lesbians serving our country.” The White House has declined to comment on criticisms of Hagel’s views on Israel and his “Jewish lobby” comment.
A video of the President on Meet the Press is posted below.