December 18th, 2012
06:21 PM ET

Question about David Petraeus gets a laugh from Leon Panetta

By Larry Shaughnessy

"You've got to be kidding me."

That's how Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta first responded when asked about David Petraeus's sudden and unceremonial departure from the CIA.

The question was asked during an event Tuesday at the National Press Club.

"As the former head of the CIA, please explain why Gen. Petraeus was forced to resign, rather than a lesser punishment," an unidentified audience member asked.

As soon as the question was asked, Panetta laughed and said, "You've got to be kidding me."

He continued: "In this town, with that kind of e-mail, do you think he could have survived as director of the CIA? I don't think so."

The White House said at the time that Petraeus himself offered to resign and that he believed he could not continue to lead the CIA. President Barack Obama, his press secretary said, simply agreed with Petraeus.

Petraeus resigned and admitted that he had had an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the woman who wrote a biography about him.

Petraeus wrote of the affair and his resignation in a letter to CIA employees that read in part: "After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

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Filed under: CIA • Obama • Panetta • Pentagon • Petraeus • Petraeus • Security Brief • White House
soundoff (13 Responses)
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  3. GetOnWithIt

    Sadly, by accepting the responsibility for his actions and 'acting honorably' he proved beyond any doubt he was not suited to be the head of the CIA. If you are head of one of the most secretive and potentially deadly agencies in the United States Government, you must be willing and able to lie, cheat, steal and kill. More to the point you must be able to defend those actions before a secret committee and lie about them to the public. If you cannot do that you are better off in the Peace Corps.

    December 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • JoeL60

      I don't think he would make it in the Peace Corp. There would be no one to hand him a bottle of water ever 2 miles or find fresh Pineapple before being tucked into bed at night. But being tuck into bed was where the problem started.

      December 27, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • Ezzy

      Most people cant handle this kind of truth. Well Said!

      January 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  4. Richard B. Hatch

    "Feet of Clay" No worse than Ike. Professional effectiveness in tact. Leadership in tact. I could support Petraeus for President. We need LEADERSHIP in this country. His body of work all of his life can not be deminished by one mistake. Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton are all greatful for a forgiving public and I am greatful for General Petraesus's contributions and Service. Petraeus is NOT DONE YET!

    December 26, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
  5. JoeL

    Panetta got it right . The Man is a Myth and the email proved it . He could no longer walk the Halls of Langley with out all holding back the the laughter. And that would have been hard to take for King David.

    December 22, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  6. James

    Gee, I wonder why Clinton didn't "just resign" immediately when he got caught with his hand "in the cookie jar" ? Petraues did the honorable thing, admitting his guilt.

    December 21, 2012 at 4:31 am | Reply
  7. Dr. Jack Brown

    Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2234:
    Leon Panetta, David Petraeus & Paula Broadwell – Secretary of Defense's Body Language

    http://www.bodylanguagesuccess.com/2012/12/nonverbal-communication-analysis-2234.html

    December 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  8. massoud

    I am surprised Panetta is retiring he will miss his tax payer funded private jet I bet. He will probably get some high paid position on a board of Directors at some defense contractor firm that will be part of the ever expanding police state that the USSA has become.

    December 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  9. Jay B. Born

    We're laughing with him. Probably 99% of people who have worked with David Petraeus feel this way. Panetta's on his way out and can say what he thinks. Petraeus should never again serve in public life for the way he abused taxpayer funds when the rest of us were in a deep recession. No consulting contracts from anywhere in our government – not ever.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
  10. Matt

    Very few people outsiders are accepted at Langley, perhaps one on hand, Director or not. I can say that Neon Leon was and is. He is DoD, he will be retired, but he will always be CIA. Yeah he lost bodies.

    December 19, 2012 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • Jay B. Born

      And Commander Petraeus didn't?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:28 am | Reply

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