Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, underwent a recommended procedure in December, suffered an unexpected complication and within two weeks was readmitted to a hospital and placed in intensive care for several days.
The New York Post reported that Austin was “rushed” to Walter Reed National Military Hospital on Jan. 1 “in severe pain from a urinary tract infection” connected to the “prostatectomy he had undergone Dec. 22.”
Austin has come under fire, not for his diagnosis or treatment, but for not disclosing his hospitalization — to Congress, the White House or his undersecretary.
On Monday, after two weeks after his readmission to Walter Reed Medical Center, the embattled secretary of defense has returned home.
Some members of Congress, who have been angry with Austin regarding his handling of Afghanistan, Iran and southern border issues, have been quick to criticize the secretary’s failure to properly communicate his health status.
Some representatives are calling for his resignation, asserting that his quietly transferring limited authority to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks on January 2, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the time, and not notifying the White House or congressional officials of his status, represented a dereliction of duty.
The Pentagon announced that Austin had been hospitalized in an intensive care unit on the evening of Jan. 5, days after the fact.
In a statement, doctors said the 70-year-old Austin was released and would work remotely “for a period of time.”
Austin, who has apologized for not following proper communication protocols stated: “I’m grateful for the excellent care I received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and want to thank the outstanding doctors and nursing staff for their professionalism and superb support.”
“I also am thankful and appreciative for all the well wishes I received for a speedy recovery,” Austin continued. “Now, as I continue to recuperate and perform my duties from home, I’m eager to fully recover and return as quickly as possible to the Pentagon.”
President Biden chided Austin for the breach in protocol but expressed support for the secretary. When a Pennsylvanian reporter asked if he still had confidence in Austin, Biden replied, “I do.”
Last Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC: “We’re all going to learn from this event … the defense secretary’s going to stay in office.”
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