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 was gay and dying of AIDS, has tested negative for the AIDS virus.
“I had a feeling I was strong and healthy,” said the brother-in-law, Douglas Richard Hansen, who has asserted all along that he is not ill with AIDS and who offered to take an AIDS test to end the controversy. “I just pray not another soul in this world gets it (AIDS).”
Hansen, 51, a landscape architect from San Diego, learned of Sallie Dornan’s statements, made at a contentious Town Hall meeting Sept. 18 in Garden Grove, when a relative who had seen news accounts phoned him a few days after the meeting. In an interview, Hansen said his sister’s statements were untrue. He said he was concerned that reports that he was 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. The test, which was arranged by The Times’ medical department, indicated no sign of the infection. The blood sample for the test was taken Sept. 28.
Neither Rep. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) nor Sallie Dornan, who is campaign manager for her husband’s current 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 the results: “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.”
The events leading to the test began when Sallie Dornan 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.
Gay activists confronted Dornan at the meeting, accusing him of opposing anti-discrimination language in AIDS legislation. Dornan defended himself against those charges.
During an exchange with LeTourneau, Sallie Dornan said, “My brother is dying” of AIDS. Moments later, trying once 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 later that he had heard nothing from his sister for several years and had not gotten along with Rep. Dornan since an incident that occurred about two years after the couple were married in 1955.
A gay activist who said he is a friend of Mrs. Dornan, and who talked to her last week, said she was convinced even after Hansen’s statement in the interview that Hansen had AIDS. The friend, Don Genhart of Lompoc, said he expected that Sallie Dornan would “be real astounded that he tested negative and not positive . . . because she was so sure he had it.”
Asked why Sallie Dornan believed that her brother was 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.”
LeTourneau said Monday that he believes 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.”
Of Sallie Dornan’s calling him a “fag,” LeTourneau added: “I believe she’s sorry she said it in the sense 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 one of a series of meetings for Dornan’s constituents.
“I know she’s a good woman,” Hansen said. “I’ll love her till I die.”