Kirby Says White House Didn’t Know Why Defense Sec Went To Hospital Even After Being Notified Of His Condition

[Photo Credit: Screenshot | NBC News]

Reagan Reese White House Correspondent
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The White House did not know why Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin was hospitalized after being notified that he had checked into Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. on Friday evening, national security adviser John Kirby said during a Monday press briefing.

Austin had been hospitalized Monday, Jan. 1, but top White House National Security Council officials along with President Joe Biden were not notified for several days, nor were they told that the Defense Secretary had reportedly stayed in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to issues stemming from a medical procedure. The Pentagon revealed Tuesday that Austin had a procedure Dec. 22 to treat prostate cancer and was admitted Jan. 1 due to pain resulting from a urinary tract infection.

Despite being notified of Austin’s condition Friday and speaking to Austin on Saturday, Biden did not learn of the defense secretary’s prostate cancer until Tuesday, the same day the American people were told, Kirby said.

“So the president has known, for, I guess, five days now that Sec. Austin was in the hospital, but he wasn’t informed [about his diagnosis]. Why?” a reporter asked.

“He was not informed until last Friday that Sec. Austin was in the hospital, he was not informed until this morning that the root cause of that hospitalization was prostate cancer,” Kirby responded.

“Is that because the White House knew and didn’t inform the president or because Sec. Austin chose not to share that with the president?” the reporter followed up.

“Nobody at the White House knew that Sec. Austin had prostate cancer until this morning and the president was informed immediately after we were informed,” Kirby responded.

Kirby added that there are several lessons to take from the communication breakdown between the White House and the Pentagon over Austin’s hospitalization, such as early screening for prostate cancer.

Austin had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in early December, according to the Pentagon statement. When Austin underwent his Dec. 22 procedure, the White House did not know what the operation was for, Kirby said during the briefing.

The defense secretary did not notify the White House of his Dec. 22 elective surgery, either, CNN reported.

Amid backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, Biden is not considering firing Austin from his position, a White House official told the Daily Caller. Even if Austin was going to hand in a letter of resignation, Biden would not accept it, a senior administration official told Politico.

Austin released a statement following the news that the White House had been kept in the dark, taking responsibility for the communication breakdown and pledging transparency moving forward. The statement was released Saturday, before the White House was notified that the Defense Secretary had prostate cancer. (RELATED: ‘Dereliction Of Duty’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Draws Fire Over Handling Of Undisclosed Medical Condition)

“I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” Austin said in the statement. “But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”