WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday he never directed anyone on his staff not to tell the White House he'd been hospitalized and takes full responsibility for keeping President Joe Biden in the dark for weeks that he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“We did not handle this right and I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I take full responsibility,” Austin said.
“The news shook me,” Austin, 70, said when he first got the diagnosis. “Frankly my first instinct was to keep it private.”
Speaking to reporters in the Pentagon briefing room, Austin provided his most extensive comments to date on the secrecy surrounding his cancer diagnosis and struggles with complications since his surgery on Dec. 22. It was the first time he had answered questions from reporters since being rushed back to the hospital on Jan. 1.
“I never directed anyone to keep my January hospitalization from the White House,” Austin said.
Known as a very private person, Austin appeared calm as he fielded a barrage of questions about his health and why he failed to inform the president and other key leaders about his hospitalizations until days after he was admitted to intensive care.
His lack of disclosure prompted changes in federal guidelines and triggered an internal Pentagon review and an inspector general review into his department's notification procedures. Both reviews…