WASHINGTON Dec 30 President Barack Obama
offered strong support for former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel
as the potential next U.S. defense secretary but said in remarks
aired on Sunday he has not yet decided on a nominee for the
Hagel is considered a leading candidate to replace outgoing
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, but he has come under
criticism for his record on Israel and for a comment that being
gay was an inhibiting factor for being an ambassador.
"I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a
patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in
the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with
valor in Vietnam," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an
interview taped on Saturday and broadcast on Sunday.
Obama said he has seen nothing that would disqualify Hagel.
The president said Hagel had apologized for his comments
related to homosexuality, referred to by NBC's David Gregory in
"With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he
apologized for it," Obama said.
"And 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."