A newly released 911 call has revealed that an aide seeking an ambulance for the US defence secretary Lloyd Austin on 1 January asked the dispatcher to have first responders discreetly arrive on the scene.
“Can the ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? We’re trying to remain a little subtle,” said the caller, whose identity was redacted, according to an audio recording obtained by The Daily Beast.
The dispatcher responded by saying the ambulance, which arrived at Mr Austin’s home, could do that, noting that “usually when they turn into a residential neighborhood, they’ll turn them off”.
She added that the ambulance is required by law to run the sirens and lights on main streets.
The partially redacted recording also revealed that Mr Austin was not experiencing chest pain at the time, but he did feel like he was going to pass out. The caller also said Mr Austin was alert and hadn’t vomited blood or had blood in his stool.
Mr Austin was hospitalised on New Year’s Day with complications resulting from prostate cancer treatment after undergoing a procedure to treat his prostate cancer on 22 December.
He was subsequently transferred to intensive care on 2 January.
The defence secretary was heavily criticised after it was revealed that neither President Joe Biden nor Mr Austin’s deputy secretary, Kathleen Hicks, knew about the surgery or subsequent intensive care admission until 4 January. Mr Austin also kept his cancer diagnosis a secret from Mr Biden and senior officials until 9 January.
Mr Austin, who lives in Virginia, later apologised for keeping his surgery a secret, saying he takes full responsibility and that he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed”.
“I commit to doing better,” he added.
He was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Maryland on Monday and said he will continue to work from home as he recuperates.
Ms Hicks took on some of Mr Austin’s duties after he transferred decision-making power to her during the initial surgery and a portion of his hospital stay to treat the complications, according to the Associated Press.
However, Mr Austin did orchestrate and then monitor the nation’s retaliatory attack on Yemen-based Houthi militants on Thursday from the hospital, Pentagon officials revealed last week.
Officials from the White House and Pentagon said they have initiated a review of Mr Austin’s lack of disclosure as well as future procedures for notifying senior officials in the event of an absence that could require the transfer of decision-making capabilities.
Mr Biden called Mr Austin’s failure to disclose a lapse in judgement, but said he still had confidence in the top defence official.
Former president Donald Trump called for Mr Austin to be fired “immediately” last week for going “missing for one week” of work.