National Security

Defense Secretary Austin says he didn’t handle news of hospitalization ‘right’

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday he “should have told the president about” his cancer diagnosis.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday he “should have told the president about” his cancer diagnosis.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged hursday that he “did not handle” his hospitalization following prostate cancer surgery “right,” and that he “should have told the president about” his diagnosis.

“Let me be crystal clear: We did not handle this right and I did not handle this right,” Austin said Thursday at the Pentagon, in his first public comments about the matter. “I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis.”

The remarks cap a tumultuous few weeks for Austin after it emerged that he was hospitalized on New Year’s Day and that no one — including President Biden — knew for several days that he was in hospital, had undergone surgery for prostate cancer the previous month, or that he had complications from that procedure.

Additionally, neither Austin nor his staff told Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks that Austin was hospitalized on Dec. 22 or Jan. 1, though the official duties were transferred to her.

The lack of information resulted in calls for Austin’s resignation. He was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Jan. 15. He returned to work at the Pentagon this week.