The President of the United States, Joe Biden, was reportedly unaware of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s battle with cancer for approximately a month, even though Austin underwent surgery in December, sparking controversy in the country. The revelation has put additional pressure on Biden during an election year where he already grapples with serious external crises involving Israel and Ukraine.
Austin, 70, oversees military deployments to address the consequences of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. The Pentagon resisted providing details for days until releasing a report on Tuesday about Austin’s health issues, a tactic the White House deems too late.
Austin’s prostate cancer was discovered during a routine check-up in early December, leading to surgery on December 22. After being discharged on December 23, he was readmitted on January 1 due to complications, including nausea and severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain. The initial diagnosis revealed a urinary tract infection, but doctors identified abdominal fluid accumulations affecting small intestine function after transferring him to intensive care on January 2.
The delayed disclosure has drawn criticism from the White House, with National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby emphasizing that Austin did not follow the proper procedures. The incident has prompted a review of health protocols for high-ranking officials.
Despite the controversy, the White House asserts its full confidence in Austin, with President Biden expecting his return to the Pentagon. Austin’s case has triggered critiques from both Republicans and Democrats, prompting the White House to address the need to avoid a repeat of such incidents in the future.