– Pentagon chief keeps hospital stay secret for days — even from Biden
Lloyd Austin was in intensive care due to complications. Joe Biden only found out about this after a delay. Now there is a barrage of criticism.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was unable to leave the clinic in Washington on Sunday after a hospital stay that was kept secret for several days. An Austin press spokesman said the 70-year-old was still being treated there for complications after a simple, non-acute procedure.
The Defense Secretary was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on New Year's Day and was treated in the intensive care unit there. But neither the hospital stay itself nor the severity of the illness were publicly reported. The Associated Press News Agency learned from informed sources that even US President Joe Biden did not know about the matter until his National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, informed him of the matter on Thursday.
Austin Rep. Kathleen Hicks was also not informed until Thursday, as it became known over the weekend. She was on vacation in Puerto Rico and was assigned to some Austin duties on Tuesday, a senior Defense Department official said. However, it was not clear whether she had received any other explanation at this point as to why she was taking on these duties now. The source said that something like this often happens without any additional explanation.
Ultimately, Hicks did not return to Washington because Austin was said to resume his duties on Friday. The minister admitted, in a statement on Saturday evening, that he should have acted more transparently. “But it's important to say: This was my medical procedure.” He confirmed that his condition is slowly improving and he will return to the Pentagon soon. He did not reveal any specific details about the background of his stay in the hospital.
Pence talks about 'dereliction of duty'
Roger Wicker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for an immediate clarification of the facts. The Pentagon Press Association, which represents journalists working for the Department of Defense, called the delay in announcing the hospitalizations outrageous. The Pakistan Defense Authority said that given the tense situation in the Middle East and Ukraine, the American people need to know the health of defense leaders and their decision-making ability.
Former US Vice President Mike Pence criticized Austin's actions, calling them “unacceptable.” Pence told CNN on Sunday that Americans have a right to know about the secretary's health — especially if the Pentagon chief is out of work for several days. The fact that he did not inform the president was a “breach of duty.”