Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald says he made a mistake and apologized for a false statement he made claiming he served in the U.S. special forces. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald says he made a mistake when he falsely claimed he served in the U.S. special forces while talking to a homeless man in Los Angeles. While answering questions from reporters on Tuesday, McDonald said, "In an attempt to connect with that veteran to help him feel comfortable I incorrectly stated that I too had been in special forces, that was wrong and I have no excuse." McDonald went on to say, "I made a mistake and I apologize for it." The White House on Tuesday defended McDonald. "We take him at his word," a White House spokesperson said, adding the Obama administration does not expect the flub to harm McDonald's work on veterans' issues. John Stroud of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in a statement that his group accepted McDonald's apology. But Republican lawmaker Jeff Miller, who leads the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee, said the misstatement could hamper trust in the VA, which had struggled after a scandal forced out its previous leader. The department was the subject of searing criticism in 2014 after it was discovered that veterans faced long waits for care at some facilities. Staff also tried to hide how long veterans waited. Several public figures have been in the news over their military activities of late. Brian Williams, anchor of NBC's top-rated "Nightly News" program, was suspended without pay after acknowledging a story he told about coming under fire on a helicopter in Iraq was not true. The left-leaning magazine Mother Jones reported that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly exaggerated by saying he was a war correspondent during the 1982 Falklands war, when he actually covered protests in Argentina. O'Reilly says he accurately described his coverage.