Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

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The Biden Administration fielded criticism this week after it was revealed that the White House's top defense official was secretly hospitalized.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's health condition and current hospitalization were hidden from both the White House and the public for multiple days amid a slew of international conflicts.

Austin reportedly had surgery to treat prostate cancer last month, but a complication stemming from the surgery led him to return to the hospital on Jan. 1, where he remains. According to reports, the White House did not learn about Austin’s return to the hospital until Jan. 4.

An article in the Wall Street Journal (Center bias) described the "improbable episode," writing, "Only a small cadre of aides was aware that Austin was hospitalized. Most others in the Pentagon, including Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who was carrying out his duties, were kept in the dark, according to the Pentagon’s current version of events."

Austin released a statement on Jan. 6, saying he understands the "media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure."

The Washington Post Editorial Board (Lean Left bias) argued Austin “owes the public more answers.” The board determined, "The fact that no one in the White House appears to have noticed the secretary’s absence for several days amid heated conflicts in the Middle East and in Ukraine is another riddle — and unfortunately implies Mr. Austin, though an able man, is not as central to national security decision-making as his counterparts, especially Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mr. Sullivan."

A writer in CNN Opinion (Left bias) said the situation puts a "harsh light" on Biden's national security team, stating, "There has rarely been a more fraught time during the Biden administration for the US secretary of defense to be out of commission than now. Consider that on Thursday, a US drone strike killed the leader of an Iranian-based militia in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. The Baghdad strike was authorized before Austin was admitted to hospital."

The New York Post Editorial Board (Right bias) asked, "If we can’t trust the Biden administration to reveal that the defense secretary has cancer … how can we trust the White House on more important questions?" The board voiced concern that the White House could conceal health information "about an 81-year-old president in obvious mental and physical decline." The board called on President Biden to fire Austin, concluding, "How can the man the American public entrusted with defending the country from all enemies foreign and domestic possibly do that if he won’t fire untrustworthy underlings?"

In the National Review Opinion (Right bias), Rich Lowry (Right bias) argued that the "spectacularly dysfunctional lack of communication" revealed something deeper about the Biden Administration, writing, "the most important lack of transparency about health is happening before our eyes. It doesn’t involve any cabinet official, but the commander in chief himself. We are told that Joe Biden is robust and energetic, when he is increasingly rickety and, seemingly, easily confused. We can be sure if the president gets worse, the White House — adopting the Austin policy — will do everything in its power to hide the ball."

Biden is reportedly not planning on firing Austin and will not accept his resignation letter if Austin offers it.

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More from the Center

Biden Has 'Complete Trust' in Lloyd Austin After Secret Hospitalization

"The situation led to questions about Austin's relationship with the White House and President Biden and whether his job was potentially in jeopardy due to the clandestine nature of his hospitalization combined with the wars requiring attention in Ukraine and Gaza. The hospital stay was not relayed to the president until Thursday, a U.S. official told Reuters."

More from the Left

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s mysterious absence, explained
Vox (opinion)

"A centerpiece of Biden’s argument for reelection has been to contrast the professionalism and dependability of his team, particularly on national security, with the chaos of Donald Trump’s term in office. But it’s hard not to view the lack of communication around Austin’s absence as anything but chaotic, and this apparent national security own-goal could not have come at a worse time for the White House and the Pentagon."

More from the Right

The Secretary of Defense Can’t Go AWOL. Neither Can America.
Bret Stephens (opinion)

"The job of secretary of defense is to be on the job. Imagine if the Houthis had put a hole in an American ship, requiring an immediate response. Hours could have been lost while combatant commanders tried to get direction from the Pentagon. What’s astonishing here isn’t that Austin neglected to inform his staff or the White House. It’s the nonchalance with which the administration is treating the incident."

See more big stories from the past week.