Former US ambassador James Hormel has forgiven Chuck Hagel for previously describing him as “aggressively gay” and is now supporting his defence secretary nomination.

President Obama named Mr Hagel as his preferred defence secretary on Monday, despite a backlash from LGBT campaigners.

The Republican former US senator has come under renewed criticism for comments he made in 1998, when he described ex-US Ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, as “aggressively gay”.

Although Mr Hagel apologised for the comments and for supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Mr Hormel initially suggested the apology lacked sincerity.

However, in an interview on the Stephanie Miller Show on Tuesday, Mr Hormel said:

“Times have changed and this gentleman has changed as well.”

Mr Hormel said the previous homophobic comments should not disqualify Mr Hagel from the job. He added: “There are many things about him that make him very attractive.”

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press just after Christmas, and in reference to Mr Hagel’s anti-gay remarks, President Obama said:

“He apologised for it. 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.

On Monday, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of the US Senate said that she wishes to meet with Mr Hagel to see if his attitudes towards LGBT equality really have changed.

The appointment must be confirmed by the US Senate.