US Defense Secretary Austin to testify on health secrecy on Feb 29

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will testify before Congress on Feb. 29 about his failure to disclose his cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospitalizations, including to President Joe Biden, a congressional spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“The Department of Defense has confirmed to the House Armed Services Committee that Secretary Austin will testify before the Committee on February 29th on his failure to disclose his hospitalization,” said House Armed Services Committee spokesperson Justine Tripathi.

Austin apologized during a televised news briefing last week for failing to tell Biden and senior staff about his recent prostate cancer diagnosis ahead of time, adding the health scare was a “gut punch” that had shaken him.

Austin, 70, also apologized for the way he handled his subsequent hospitalization, which was kept secret from the public, senior staff and Biden himself for days.

The incident triggered a political uproar. Some prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, called for Austin to be removed from his job. Austin is a retired four-star general who led forces in Iraq and who is America’s first Black defense secretary.

Biden, a Democrat, has said he has confidence in Austin despite what the president agreed was a lapse in judgment.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese)

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