Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed regret and issued an apology for the handling of his prostate cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, acknowledging that the process caused confusion, especially due to a secretive hospital stay kept from top U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden.
Austin was admitted to the hospital on January 1 due to complications stemming from a surgery in late December to address the cancer.
In a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, Austin admitted, “We did not handle this right. I did not handle this right.”Surprisingly, key members of the national security team, including President Biden, were unaware of Austin’s hospitalization until January 4, three days after he was admitted.
It was only when Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, informed Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and national security adviser Jake Sullivan that the president became aware.
Austin emphasized that he did not instruct anyone to conceal his hospitalization or diagnosis from the White House.
In response to queries about Magsamen’s role, Austin revealed that she did not attend the briefing and has not offered her resignation, despite facing scrutiny for the delayed notification of Austin’s hospitalization.
Regarding the events on January 1, when Austin experienced pain due to earlier cancer treatment, it was revealed that an aide, while calling 911, requested an ambulance without lights and sirens for a low-profile response.
Austin clarified that while he did ask the aide to call an ambulance, he did not specifically direct to keep the situation quiet. He noted, “What he said and why he said it, I think, that should come out in the review.”
The public only learned about Austin’s cancer diagnosis on January 9, eight days after he was hospitalized. Austin acknowledged that he should have informed President Biden, his team, and the American public about his cancer diagnosis earlier, taking full responsibility for the lapse. He stated that he has personally apologized to President Biden.