‘You Screwed Up’: Matt Gaetz Invokes The Bible To Hammer Sec Def Austin On Hospitalization

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz on Thursday used a passage in the Bible about an unmerciful debtor to illustrate what he presented as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s hypocrisy over mistakes he made during his undisclosed hospitalization.

Gaetz brought up a parable from chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew about a servant who begs for and receives forgiveness of a massive debt, while punishing another man who owed him a much smaller amount. While Austin wants Congress and the public to overlook the failure to notify lawmakers and critical administration leaders, Gaetz said. he did not give the same grace to members of the U.S. military booted for refusing the military’s 2021 COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“You want that benefit, but you don’t want to extend it to others,” Gaetz said. “You’re not meeting your own standards that you set for yourself.” (RELATED: ‘You Embarrassed Us’: GOP Rep. Banks Grills Sec Def Austin On How President Biden Didn’t Notice His Absence)

Austin appeared before a group of House lawmakers for the first time Thursday since his undisclosed hospitalization in January sparked outrage and concern about a breakdown in control over the Department of Defense (DOD).

The military services rolled back their COVID-19 vaccine requirements in early 2023 and halted discharges of unvaccinated members after Congress legislated the end of the department-wide mandate. Service leaders at the time said vaccine refusal cases were being dealt with on an individual basis, but troops could still be discharged if they received adverse administrative actions on their service records.

“Congressman, the reason I’m here is because the chairman requested — and I’m here — to talk about the circumstances surrounding my hospitalization,” Austin responded.

“You screwed up. We fix your screw up, and now you want grace. But these people have sought was religious exemptions. They got no such grace,” Gaetz said.

Austin has admitted he could have better informed the public about his nearly five-day hospital stay, during which time the White House and Congress were mostly kept in the dark, and committed to transparency in the future.


The unclassified summary of the Pentagon’s internal review, disclosed Monday, denied there was any intention to cover up Austin’s illness or Jan. 1 emergency hospitalization. Privacy laws and Austin’s unclear medical situation caused confusion among staff over how to handle the incident, the summary read.

“I think they made the right decision,” Austin said when asked about how his staff took initiative to transfer authorities to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

He also denied instructing his aides to seek secrecy after a line of questioning about the initial 911 call on Jan. 1 made by one of Austin’s aides from his home. One of his staff members had asked the ambulance driver to help them “remain a little subtle” in a recording of the call obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

President Joe Biden did not learn of Austin’s medical complications or hospitalization until Jan. 4generating worries President Joe Biden, as the commander in chief of the U.S. military, could not communicate with the top civilian in charge of the Pentagon.

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