Rep. Robert K. Dornan’s brother-in-law, who found himself unwittingly at the center of a controversy when Dornan’s wife asserted in a public forum that he is gay and dying of AIDS, has tested negative for the AIDS virus.
“I had a feeling I was strong and healthy,” the brother-in-law, Douglas Richard Hansen, said Monday. He had asserted all along that he is not ill with acquired immune deficiency syndrome and had offered to take an AIDS test to end the controversy.
“I just pray not another soul in this world gets it,” he said about AIDS.
Hansen, 51, a landscape architect from San Diego, learned of Sallie Dornan’s statements at a contentious town hall meeting Sept. 18 in Garden Grove when a relative who had seen news accounts telephoned him a few days after the meeting.
In an interview, Hansen said Monday his sister’s statements are untrue. He said he is concerned that reports that he is ill would cause other members of his family to worry about him and could damage his business and harm future career prospects.
Hansen volunteered to make the results of an AIDS test public. Those tests, which were arranged by The Times’ medical department, turned up no sign of AIDS antibodies. The blood sample for the tests was taken Sept. 28.
Neither Dornan (R-Garden Grove) nor his wife, who is campaign manager for her husband’s reelection bid in the 38th Congressional District, would comment Monday on the test results.
Though annoyed at being questioned again about Hansen, Dornan’s chief of staff, Brian Bennett, said of Hansen’s clean bill of health: “We’re very glad of that, then. That’s excellent.”
Bennett added: “This has absolutely nothing to do with Congressman Bob Dornan. This is between his wife and her brother.”
Last week, after Hansen came forward to deny his sister’s statements, Bennett said on Sallie Dornan’s behalf: “She believes her brother has AIDS.”
The events leading to the tests began when she called gay activist Jeff LeTourneau a “fag” in front of about 200 people at the town hall meeting. Later in the meeting, she apologized and explained that she was upset because LeTourneau had confronted her husband, “whom I love,” over his attitude toward homosexuality.
At the meeting, gay activists accused Dornan of opposing anti-discrimination language in AIDS legislation. Dornan defended himself, saying that he has sponsored AIDS legislation and that he had donated two congressional pay raises to AIDS hospices.
But he later acknowledged that the donation money is still in an escrow account, pending the outcome of a lawsuit.
During the public exchange with LeTourneau, Sallie Dornan said that “my brother is dying” of AIDS.
Moments later, trying again to quiet LeTourneau, she shouted that there is “no safe sex.” Apparently referring to her brother, she continued: “He tells me every day, the thinner he gets and the more sores he’s covered with.”
Hansen said in an interview five days after the public meeting that he had heard nothing from his sister for several years and had not gotten along with her husband since an incident that occurred about two years after the couple were married in 1955.
A gay activist who said that he is a friend of Sallie Dornan and that he talked with her last week said she had been convinced even after Hansen’s statements in the interview five days after the uproar that Hansen has AIDS.
She’ll Be ‘Real Astounded’
The friend, Don Genhart of Lompoc, said he expects that Sallie Dornan will “be real astounded that he tested negative and not positive . . . because she was so sure he had it.”
Asked why she believed her brother is suffering from AIDS, Genhart said she had told him that “she herself has observed him and knows or feels instinctively that there are changes in his physicalness.”
Told of his sister’s conversation with Genhart, Hansen joked: “Yeah, there’s changes. I’m getting better every day.”
LeTourneau said Monday that he believes that Sallie Dornan should make amends with her brother, now that his test results are public.
“She certainly owes him an apology, above everyone else,” LeTourneau said. “The fact that she’s willing to destroy her brother at the expense of protecting her husband doesn’t really say much for her or the congressman.”
Characterizing her use of the word fag as bigotry, LeTourneau added: “I believe she’s sorry she said it, in the sense (that) it was a great political liability for her husband. But I can’t help believe that she slipped and her true, inner feelings came to the surface.”
Hansen said Monday that he has forgiven his sister for making statements about him at the town hall meeting, one of a regular series of gatherings for Dornan’s constituents.
“I know she’s a good woman,” Hansen said. “I’ll love her till I die. And when and if that turkey husband of hers tumbles off his little pedestal, I’ll be there to catch my sister. But he can keep falling.”