Joe Biden in dark about Lloyd Austin's hospitalisation

Not only Joe Biden but top officials in White House were also shocked after learning about Austin's health condition

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Web Desk
US President Joe Biden arrives with First Lady Jill Biden to speak at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, on January 5, 2024. — AFP
US President Joe Biden arrives with First Lady Jill Biden to speak at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, on January 5, 2024. — AFP

US media reported Saturday that commander-in-chief of the US Joe Biden was kept in the dark by Pentagon for at least three days about the hospitalisation of his Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin until he was informed by the national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

Politico reported Saturday that President Joe Biden did not know the whereabouts of Lloyd Austin as the Secretary was admitted to the hospital on January 1.

Not only Biden but the top officials in the White House were also shocked after learning about the Pentagon chief’s health condition for which he was hospitalised.

The Pentagon issued an official statement about its boss on January 4.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint press conference with Israels defence minister, in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. — AFP
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint press conference with Israel's defence minister, in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. — AFP

Pentagon spokesperson Patrick S. Ryder explained the delay Saturday: "It was an evolving situation, in which we had to consider a number of factors, including medical and personal privacy issues."

The 81-year-old President was only informed by his national security advisor with officials ruling out prior knowledge of Biden about the Pentagon chief’s hospitalisation.

"If Jake didn’t know, no way the president knew," one of the officials was quoted as saying, mentioning that "who would have told him of Austin’s condition if not Jake? And if someone did tell the president, Jake would’ve been his first call."

The officials also said that the commander-chief of the US held a "cordial conversation" with Secretary Austin Saturday night.

"The president has complete trust and confidence in Secretary Austin," they noted.

The White House officials were surprised when they were informed after remaining in the dark for days about the hospitalisation of the 70-year-old Pentagon boss who was dealing with complications following an "elective medical procedure".

Other institutions such as Congress were also informed 15 minutes prior to revealing the official public statement until Friday evening.

According to the US media reports, Austin said Saturday: "I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure."

The Pentagon Press Association called the failure to report Austin’s condition and hospitalisation "an outrage."

"The public has a right to know when US cabinet members are hospitalised, under anesthesia or when duties are delegated as the result of any medical procedure. 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," the group said in a statement Friday.