Chuck Hagel calls Tim Howard from Pentagon, acknowledges defense secretary joke

The United States soccer team lost to Belgium, 2-1 on Tuesday, but goalie Tim Howard's record performance helped him to win the love of Internet users. (Kiratiana Freelon/The Washington Post)

Never let it be said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel doesn’t have a sense of humor.

One day after U.S. soccer goalkeeper Tim Howard had a record-setting 16 saves in a heartbreaking 2-1 World Cup loss against Belgium, the Pentagon chief called Howard on Wednesday to offer his congratulations and acknowledge a joke that spread over the past day. In praise of Howard, someone changed the Wikipedia entry for Hagel to show that Howard is the U.S. secretary of defense, and it exploded all over the Internet.

The Pentagon released this statement with the photo above this afternoon:

“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard to thank him for defending the United States of America at the World Cup. Secretary Hagel congratulated Howard on his record-breaking game and a great run in Brazil. He invited Howard and the entire team to come to the Pentagon later this year. He told Howard that with some training, he could someday become the real secretary of defense.”

The In the Loop blog outlined some of the other wacky efforts out there to recognize Howard for his heroics on the field. It seems clear that Hagel thinks it best to be in on the joke.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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