Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologizes for his handling of cancer diagnosis and hospitalization

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2024. 

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin publicly apologized Thursday for not telling President Joe Biden and the public about his prostate cancer diagnosis and his subsequent hospitalization.

“We did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public and I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people,” Austin said in a briefing at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon took three days to inform the White House that Austin had been hospitalized after complications arose from surgery to treat his prostate cancer.

Austin stressed Thursday that while he was admitted to intensive care at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, there were never any gaps in authority at the Defense Department.

“I’ve apologized directly to President Biden,” Austin said. “And I’ve told him that I’m deeply sorry for not letting him know immediately that I received a heavy diagnosis and was getting treatment.”

Austin said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks assumed his duties on Jan. 2, after he was transferred to the critical care unit for several days. Austin resumed his authority on Jan. 5, and was released from the hospital 10 days later.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.