(This post has been updated.)
An unlikely person rose to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s defense Monday after news broke overnight that the secretary had embellished his military record.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) has been one of the most vocal critics of McDonald’s performance, but the congressman struck an empathetic tone after the secretary apologized for falsely telling a homeless person he served in the Special Forces.
“The secretary’s misstatement was an error, but it doesn’t dim the fact that he served honorably,” Coffman said. “We should all take him at his word, and Washington shouldn’t spend the next two weeks arguing about it. The secretary has a job to do – clean up the scandal-plagued VA. This latest controversy shouldn’t shift one iota of focus away from that long overdue task.”
Loops fans will recall that McDonald and Coffman sparred last month at a congressional hearing on the agency’s budget. Coffman said that McDonald had accomplished little in his first six months on the job.
A defensive McDonald said: “I ran a large company, sir. What have you done?”
Coffman said he received a call from McDonald before noon, apologizing and reiterating his commitment to cleaning up the VA and to building the troubled Aurora VA hospital. Coffman may have defended McDonald on this mistake, but that doesn’t mean it’s all roses between them.
Tyler Sandberg, a spokesperson for Coffman said, “Congressman Coffman is still going to be nine miles up his backside on the day-to-day operations of the VA. Secretary McDonald and the VA still have a long way to go in proving to our nation’s veterans that they are serious about reforms.”
“McDonald should seize this moment and prove that he’s in the job to clean up the VA,” Sandberg said.