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."