Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel on Friday apologized for anti-gay remarks he made in the late 1990s.

Hagel's potential nomination to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense has come under fire for comments he made in 1998 for opposing James Hormel's nomination as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, saying he was a bad fit because he's “openly, aggressively gay.”

(Related: Gay groups criticize nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.)

“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel said in a statement. “They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families.”

Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which supports LGBT service members and their families, applauded Hagel's comments.

“We are pleased that Senator Hagel recognized the importance of retracting his previous statements about Ambassador Hormel and affirming his commitment to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal and LGBT military families. We look forward to learning more about his commitment to full LGBT military equality as this nomination and confirmation process unfolds,” she said in a statement.