National Security Advisor Susan Rice walked back her statement that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction” in her first public comments since she made that claim.
Rice spoke Friday to CNN’s Jim Acosta in Normandy, France, where she accompanied President Obama on a trip commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Acosta asked the national security advisor about her comments on Sunday, which seemed premature given extensive evidence that Bergdahl deliberately deserted his wartime post before being capture by the Taliban in 2009 (RELATED: White House Backpedals After Claiming Bergdahl ‘Served With Honor And Distinction’).
“I realize there’s been a lot of discussion and controversy around this,” Rice explained. “But what I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform in a time of war. That of itself is a very honorable thing.”
“But honor and distinction,” Acosta pressed.
“Jim, really,” an annoyed Rice pushed back. “I mean, this is a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about. He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty. He’s now being tried in the court of public opinion, after having gone through an enormously traumatic five years in captivity. His parents the same.”
Rice noted that the military is still investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance, and if claims of desertion are borne out, then “consequences will be delivered.”
“But in the meantime,” she continued, “let’s remember that this is a young man who volunteered to serve his country. He was taken as a prisoner of war, he suffered in captivity. He’s now trying to begin the process of recovery. Let’s let that happen.”
“And then let’s know the facts — including his side of the story — and then when can make a judgment,” Rice concluded.