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Tags: lloyd austin | department of defense | walter reed | pentagon | biden administration | ppa

Pentagon, Biden Admin Getting Heat for Hiding Austin's Hospitalization

By    |   Sunday, 07 January 2024 02:46 PM EST

The Pentagon and Biden administration are coming under fire for hiding the length and severity of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's hospitalization.

Outraged complaints were posted on social media — including a withering denunciation from the Pentagon Press Association.

"We are writing to express our significant concerns about the Defense Department's failure to notify the public and the media about Secretary Lloyd Austin's current hospitalization," the PPA wrote in a letter posted by Mediaite.

"The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage," the PPA wrote.

In fact, not even Austin's chief deputy knew the details of his absence.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon’s number two leader, was among the senior leaders who had no knowledge of Austin’s true whereabouts until Thursday, three days after the secretary checked into Walter Reed medical center following complications from an elective surgery, CNN also reported Sunday.

Not even the president was aware of Austin’s hospitalization until three days into his stay there, CNN previously reported.

The news of Austin's illness dropped Friday night when the Department of Defense released a terse statement.

"On the evening of January 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for complications following a recent elective medical procedure," Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder wrote.

"He is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today. At all times, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required."

But there was nothing said about Austin's stint in the intensive care unit — and indication of the severity of his illness and a significant detail first revealed by NBC News.

According to Politico, one DOD office mused: "Someone's head has to roll."

"Not telling the [White House], Congress or the media he is sick, and then telling Pentagon staff he is working from home is next level. This is a problem," said one former senior DOD official. "Someone made the decision not to disclose. That person will likely be gone shortly."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's obfuscation was ripped on social media.

"As of tonight, I do not see a way forward for believing the Pentagon tells the truth on anything," CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr fumed. "Reporters are always skeptics but this goes far and deep beyond that always professional skepticism," she said, calling the secrecy "a huge failure."

Another CNN journalist, Oren Liebermann, called the delay "unacceptable, especially given his crucial position in the national security establishment and world events."

"This is an administration that talked a big game about transparency, and it failed this test. This is a member of the cabinet and the leader of the US military," he wrote.

PPA board members Luis Martinez of ABC News, Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press, Aaron Mehta of Breaking Defense, and Phil Stewart of Reuters demanded accountability in their letter posted by Mediaite.

"The public has a right to know when U.S. Cabinet members are hospitalized, under anesthesia or when duties are delegated as the result of any medical procedure," they wrote. "That has been the practice even up to the president's level. As the nation's top defense leader, Secretary Austin has no claim to privacy in this situation."

Even President Joe Biden and national security adviser Jake Sullivan were in the dark about the severity of Austin's illness, according to Politico.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday he had not been aware that Austin had been hospitalized. He spoke to Austin spoke the weekend before Austin was hospitalized on New Year’s Day, Blinken said at a news conference in Qatar.

Kelly Magsamen, Austin's chief of staff, sent an email to top DOD civilian and military officials only two hours before the Pentagon publicly announced the secretary's hospitalization on Friday, Politico reported. DOD notified Congress about the news just 15 minutes before the official statement.

And throughout the week, Hicks had to partially and occasionally assume the duties of her boss while on vacation in Puerto Rico, the outlet reported.

Austin is trying to quell the uproar.

"I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better," he said in a Saturday statement, Politico reported. "This was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure." Austin didn't address failing to notify Biden.

But Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Austin's silence "unacceptable" and demanded a briefing. Another DOD official said that could turn into a bruising hearing for Austin "if he doesn't resign first," Politico reported.

Democratic Representative James Clyburn told CNN on Sunday that he had been told Austin is "now in charge of things as he was before the illness" and that he didn't think the lack of disclosure was a dereliction of duty.

"He does have a duty to keep the public informed, and I don't know whether it was him or somebody inside of the military establishment that decided to do it this way, but I'm sure he will do a little better going forward, as he said he would," Clyburn said.

Austin was still hospitalized at Walter Reed on Sunday and no date for his release was given, according to a Pentagon statement.

Fran Beyer

Fran Beyer is a writer with Newsmax and covers national politics.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

The Pentagon and Biden administration are coming under fire for hiding the length and severity of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's hospitalization.
lloyd austin, department of defense, walter reed, pentagon, biden administration, ppa
Sunday, 07 January 2024 02:46 PM
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