Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized Monday for falsely saying that he served in the special forces during a videotaped exchange with a homeless man.
McDonald apologized "to anyone that was offended by my misstatement" that he had served in the special forces, when in fact he had been with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. He completed jungle, arctic, and desert training, and retired as a captain, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Secretary McDonald has apologized for the misstatement and noted that he never intended to misrepresent his military service," a White House official told ABC News. "We take him at his word and expect that this will not impact the important work he's doing to promote the health and well-being of our nation's veterans."
During a conversation that aired Jan. 30 on CBS News, McDonald asked a homeless man if he was a veteran, and when he replied that he was in the special forces, McDonald said, "I was in the special forces."
"While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual to determine his veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military," McDonald said in a statement Monday. "He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.
"I have great respect for those who have served our nation in special forces," McDonald added. "They, and all veterans, deserve a Department of Veterans Affairs that provides them the care and benefits they have earned. I remain committed to continuing our progress to improve VA services and our ongoing effort to reform VA for the long-term."
McDonald also apologized in a Tuesday press conference.
"I incorrectly stated that I too had been in special forces, that was wrong and I have no excuse," he said, according to NBC News.
When asked if he would resign, McDonald said he is focusing on making the VA a better agency.
"I want to serve veterans," he said. "I'm here to prove we can make the VA work."
McDonald, the former chief executive of Procter and Gamble, served with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and earned the Ranger tab, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and Senior Parachutist wings. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal after leaving the service, according to the VA.
Watch the CBS News segment in which McDonald claims to have served in the special forces:
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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