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Biden learned of Austin's prostate cancer diagnosis Tuesday

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President Biden did not find out about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin‘s prostate cancer diagnosis until Tuesday morning, days after an undisclosed hospitalization was made public that Biden was also unaware of.

The White House briefed reporters on the matter just after a Pentagon briefing that revealed Austin’s cancer diagnosis earlier in the day.

“The president didn’t know about the diagnosis until this morning,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Austin acknowledged that he failed to notify Biden for multiple days that he was hospitalized following complications from what officials are still calling an “elective” medical procedure that was later revealed to be related to prostate cancer.

Kirby added that “nobody at the White House knew that secretary Austin had prostate cancer until this morning” and that Biden was informed by chief of staff Jeff Zients “immediately after we were informed.”

The secretary underwent surgery in an initial Dec. 22 hospital visit and released the next morning, the Pentagon revealed Tuesday. The cancer was detected during a routinely recommended health screening Austin had in early December.

Austin returned to the hospital following complications on Jan. 1, but Biden was unaware of his hospitalization until Jan. 4. The Pentagon informed the public that Austin was at Walter Reed Medical Center on Jan. 5. Austin’s duties were delegated to his duties for the first few days he was in the hospital.

Tuesday, however, marked the first time that Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis was revealed to the public — and to the president in what some are calling an extraordinary breach of protocol.

“His first reaction was — we all want to with him the very best,” Kirby said about Biden’s response to Austin’s diagnosis. “Sadly, this is a disease that affects many millions of American men.”

“We’re all gonna learn a whole heck of a lot of lessons from this past week,” Kirby said, adding later that it was “not good” to have had Austin’s hospitalization and diagnosis kept from the president.

The White House has said Biden isn’t considering firing Austin despite mounting criticism, including from some Republicans who have called for Austin to step down. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday reiterated that the White House appreciates that Austin has taken responsibility for the lack of transparency about the hospitalization.

The White House has said Biden spoke with Austin on Saturday and the president wished him well. Kirby on Monday said that though Biden has spoken with Austin, he didn’t know how much the president knew of his condition and Tuesday’s news reveals that Austin did not tell Biden of his cancer diagnosis during that call.

“I don’t know the details of that conversation, and I don’t know the level of the President’s personal knowledge of his medical situation,” Kirby told reporters.

The White House announced on Tuesday it is launching a review of protocols for how Cabinet officials delegate authority. 

Zients in a memo to Cabinet secretaries said agencies would be required to notify the Office of Cabinet Affairs and the White House chief of staff in the event they need to delegate their duties when traveling to areas with limited communication, during a hospitalization, or when undergoing a medical procedure requiring anesthesia.

Updated 4:06 p.m.


Source: The Hill

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