White House press secretary Jay Carney, while being vague about the Secret Service sex scandal that has now widened to include soldiers, told reporters today that it has been “much more of a distraction for the press” than for President Obama.
Eleven Secret Service agents were sent home from Cartegena, Colombia, where Obama is attending the Summit of the Americas. Five U.S. military personnel who were staying at the same hotel also have been taken off duty and are being investigated. The misconduct allegedly involves hiring prostitutes.
“The president is obviously aware of the incident, but beyond that this is a matter that the Secret Service is looking into,” Carney said as questions about the scandal kicked off the briefing.
“It would not be appropriate for the president to characterize something that’s being looked into by the Secret Service at this time,” he said. “All I can tell you is that it was — he was made aware of it. But beyond that I’m not going to characterize his reaction.”
Carney said Obama was not distracted by the drama and is “engaging in the business that he came here to do with the assembled leaders of the Americas.”
He said the White House was made aware of the scandal Thursday evening and Obama was told about it Friday.
Carney deflected numerous follow-up questions by referring reporters to the Secret Service.
“The president has had — does have confidence in the Secret Service,” he added. “And I think, as Service has said — and I would point you to those reports — that this incident had no impact on the president’s security.”
The president flies out of Colombia tomorrow evening.
“We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused,” Secret Service Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said in a statement about the agents’ violation of a “zero-tolerance policy on personal misconduct.”