Under grilling from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Attorney General designate John Ashcroft denied that the fact that sexual orientation had anything to do with his preventing a 1997 senate hearing which would have confirmed James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, who is openly gay, was highly regarded as an ideal nomination by virtually everyone, with the exception of Ashcroft’s co-conspirator, Jesse Helms. Helms managed to hop off his Li’l Rascal just long enough to help contaminate this process. The two wielded their power in order to refuse to allow the nomination come to a vote on the floor of the Senate. At the time, the only reason they gave was that Hormel was gay and that he was therefore not qualified to represent U.S. interests in Luxembourg.
However, when questioned today about this nomination, Ashcroft first said “I don’t believe I put a hold on Mr. Hormel’s nomination.” Then, he repeatedly stammered that his decision to deny this hearing had to do with “the totality of [Hormel’s] record.” Sadly, neither Leahy nor any of the other Senators on the committee pressed Ashcroft any further about what in Hormel’s record, if not the fact that he was gay, would have disqualified him. It is doubtful that Ashcroft could have named any one thing that was objectionable in Hormel’s record, who by all other accounts was pretty much above reproach.(Ultimately, Pres. Clinton did an end run around this travesty and appointed Hormel ambassador while the Senate was in recess.)
You can see the transcript of the hearing in the Washington Post.