Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized again Tuesday for falsely stating that he served in Special Forces, saying that he made the error when trying to make a connection with a homeless veteran.
"In an attempt to connect with that veteran to make him feel comfortable, I incorrectly stated that I too had been in Special Forces," he said at a press conference outside the Department of Veterans Affairs. "That was wrong and I have no excuse."
McDonald emphasized that he had never previously claimed to have served in Special Forces and that he is focused on addressing the concerns of veterans.
Asked if he considered resigning after the statement came to light, McDonald said "I want to serve veterans. I am here to try to prove that we can make the VA work."
In a CBS News report that aired in January, McDonald told a homeless veteran who said he had served in a special operations unit that he, too, "was in Special Forces."
McDonald apologized for that comment earlier Tuesday, calling it a "misstatement."
"I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement," he said in a written statement provided by the VA.
McDonald is an Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division and earned a tab marking his graduation from Ranger School, but he did not serve in a Special Forces unit.
A White House spokesperson said: “Secretary McDonald has apologized for the misstatement and noted that he never intended to misrepresent his military service. 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."
Some prominent Republicans have expressed disappointment in McDonald’s remarks but have not called for his resignation.
"I hope Sec. McDonald will redouble his efforts to ensure his statements - and those of all VA officials - are completely accurate. This is the only way the department can regain the trust of the veterans and taxpayers it is charged with serving," said House Veterans Affairs Committee head Jeff Miller.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said "it was wrong of him to claim that as part of his resume, but I'm much more concerned about his performance as secretary of veterans affairs."