Dornan’s Kin Denies He’s Gay, Dying of AIDS
Rep. Robert K. Dornan’s brother-in-law says his sister’s public statements last week that he is gay and suffering from AIDS are untrue.
In an interview with The Times, Douglas Richard Hansen, 51, a landscape architect in San Diego, said he is fuming over Sallie Dornan’s comments at a political gathering last Sunday in Garden Grove.
She said then that she had lost her temper and called a gay demonstrator a “fag” because she was angry and distraught over watching her brother deteriorate as he battled AIDS.
Hansen said in the interview that he is not a homosexual, is healthy and has seen his sister only once since their mother’s funeral in 1983. He said he was worried that other family members would learn of his sister’s remarks and be concerned about his health.
Hansen said he is so angry that he is planning to file a defamation lawsuit against the Dornans next week.
Despite repeated attempts since Friday, neither Rep. Dornan, a Republican from Garden Grove, nor his wife could be reached for comment.
Dornan’s daughter, Robin, who was reached Saturday evening, said that her parents would not respond to inquiries about Hansen. “What you’ve heard from me is as close as you’re going to get to my mother or my father on this,” she said.
Asked how her mother was informed that Hansen was ill, Robin Dornan said: “That’s personal. There’s been communication. That’s all I’m going to say.”
“It’s something that’s very, very sensitive and very personal and very sad,” she said. “We just want to communicate with him and we don’t want him to be sick and alone.”
‘My Uncle Knows That We Love Him’
She added: “The major thing is that my uncle knows that we love him. We love him. We are concerned about him. The important thing, he can say whatever he wants. That’s his right to protect himself . . . from the press, from public scrutiny.
“I have beautiful memories of him. My father loves him and is concerned about him. I don’t want the press by their reporting of this . . . to drive him further away from us and make him think we don’t care for him. We’re not going to turn this into a family battle in the press. . . . “
Last Sunday, Sallie Dornan apologized for yelling at a gay activist who was involved in a heated exchange with her husband during a Town Hall forum by saying she had “anger in my heart” over homosexuality because “my brother is dying.”
“He tells me every day; the thinner he gets, the sores covering his body,” an emotional Sallie Dornan told about 200 people at the forum.
When Rep. Dornan expressed surprise at her comments about Hansen, whom he called “Dougie,” she told him she had not informed him of her brother’s illness “because I didn’t want to hurt you.” Dornan said at the time he had believed his brother-in-law to be gay.
Robin Dornan said Saturday that her mother’s comments about Hansen’s weight and condition were misunderstood. When Sallie Dornan described Hansen’s appearance, she said, she was referring to what she feared would happen to him in the future.
“Is this what I’m going to have to see my brother with, getting thin, having sores?” Robin Dornan said her mother was saying. “In the future tense. She was referring to (what) the natural course of the disease is, not what currently is.”
Hansen, appearing to be robust and healthy, said in the interview with The Times on Friday that he had been tested for the AIDS virus four or five times in the last two years because he had had many gay friends and feared that even casual contact with them might expose him to the disease. All the tests were negative, he said.
“I’ll take an AIDS test anytime,” he said. “I’m a healthy 51.” Hansen held out his arms and asked, “Do y ou see any spots?”
As for his weight, Hansen grinned and said, “I’m getting a little porky.”
Hansen said he had many gay, as well as straight, friends while living in San Francisco in the 1970s but began withdrawing from his gay friends after hearing theories, later disproved, about how the AIDS virus could be casually transmitted.
Stopped Associating With Gays
“I got this fear of AIDS . . . so I stopped going to any gay bars with my friends. I stopped going to any gay restaurants with them. I stopped associating with them,” Hansen said.
“Also, I really escalated my Christianity the last several years,” he said, adding that he disagrees with his gay friends’ sexual habits.
Hansen said he decided to tell his story “for two reasons: to defend my good name and to blast that guy (Dornan) out of the water too. He’s a turkey.”
He added: “I almost look at this like a patriotic chore. This man should be stopped.”
Dornan, who is running for re-election in the 38th Congressional District against Democrat Jerry Yudelson, has served five terms in Congress--first representing a district in West Los Angeles and later Garden Grove.
For the last two years, Dornan has been one of the top stand-in speakers for Vice President George Bush’s presidential campaign. Spotting him at a rally at last month’s Republican Convention, Bush said his affection for Dornan “knows no bounds.”
Dornan has often expressed the hope that he might be appointed Secretary of Defense but has said he does not believe he has the national stature to be named to that post.
Hansen accused the congressman of turning his sister against him and maligning him to other family members by accusing him of theft and homosexuality.
“He broke up our family and we were a very tight family,” Hansen said. “I’m sure she (his sister) believes I’m gay after hearing it her whole life.”
Sallie Dornan and Hansen have three other brothers. Both of their parents are dead.
Hansen, who said he has never married but has two sons, said he and Rep. Dornan were close friends until a dispute about two years after his sister’s 1955 marriage to Dornan. Hansen said he has had some contact with his sister since then but that the Dornans have stayed aloof from the rest of the family.
A grown niece of Hansen who asked not to be named said in a telephone interview Saturday: “It’s been known in the family that Dornan and him (Hansen) don’t get along.” She said that while she and her family have seen Hansen periodically--and as recently as a few months ago--she had not seen her aunt “in a very, very long time, about 10 years.” Of her uncle, who is called “Dougie” in the family, she said: “We don’t see each other often. When we do, we love each other and we’re family.”
The niece, who lives in northern California, said she learned of the Dornans’ remarks through television news accounts.
“I never heard this in my family, that he was gay,” she said.
Hansen said he learned of Sallie Dornan’s statements at the Town Hall forum from an aunt who had read newspaper accounts and who “called me and told me that there was a big hullabaloo going on.” Hansen said he became more and more angry as he thought about it because the AIDS allegation could hurt his landscaping business as well as future career prospects.
‘Really Out of Line’
Told on Saturday that the niece, who was reached by telephone, had defended him and called the Dornans “really, really, really out of line . . . to come out and slash your family,” Hansen grew sad.
“I’m so embarrassed I don’t even want to talk to her (his niece) right now,” he said. “I’ve never had that in my life, that feeling that it’s embarrassing looking at all these people that love me.”
Hansen also said a comment by his sister that he had been “in hiding” while ill was untrue. He said he had been operating his business and was in regular contact with his other relatives.
“Why does she come off the wall and say something like this?” he said of his sister’s remarks about AIDS. “I can’t believe it. She’s been in politics for years, and she’s got to do this to me? I can’t believe it.”
Hansen was asked if he still liked his sister.
“Not anymore--no, I don’t,” he said. “But I’m sure I have a basic love. I’d fight for her if her life was threatened. But I can’t defend her reputation anymore because I’ve done everything I could do for 20 years to be a loving brother.”
A house-sitter for the Dornans said by telephone Saturday that the Dornans were not at home and that she had given Sallie Dornan a previous message from a reporter about her brother’s statements to The Times.
She said Sallie Dornan replied: “They better read it to me before they print it.” However, Sallie Dornan did not return repeated calls from The Times.
Dornan has been plagued by charges that he is anti-homosexual. At last week’s Town Hall forum, Dornan defended himself against those charges, saying he had sponsored AIDS legislation and donated his last two congressional pay raises to AIDS hospices.
However, he later said the money was in escrow pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the U.S. government claiming the pay raises were illegal.