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Topics: Veterans Affairs

Ex-Veterans Affairs official walks back suggestion that Bowe Bergdahl's unit may have been infested with 'psychopaths'

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Housing and Urban Development,Veterans Affairs,Twitter,Bowe Bergdahl,Becket Adams

A former Veterans Affairs official apologized Thursday for suggesting that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may have left his post in Afghanistan five years ago because he was surrounded by “psychopaths.”

“While I just wanted to make the point that the public should wait before passing judgment, I unfortunately used my own poor judgment in choosing inappropriate language that many view as disparaging to U.S. service members,” Brandon Friedman, who currently serves as a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told BuzzFeed.

“That was certainly not my intent and I regret making the comments on my personal account in such a way. I apologize to those with whom I work in the Administration, at HUD, and, most importantly, to any service members who took offense,” he said.

Friedman, himself a veteran, sparked outrage Wednesday night after he floated the idea that maybe Bergdahl's comrades pushed him to leave his post.

“Here's the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership?” Friedman asked in a series of tweets. “What if [Bergdahl] grew disillusioned with what he saw, didn't trust his leadership, and walked off? Legal? No. Worthy of sympathy? Maybe.”

“If that were the case, the soldiers in his platoon would have all the more reason to smear him publicly now,” he added. “Given other examples, it’s not out of the realm of possibility–and more reason to withhold judgment until after an investigation.”

His musings were met with predictable pushback, ultimately forcing him to walk back the claim.

“I'd like to clarify tweets I wrote last night on my personal Twitter account concerning the return of Bowe Bergdahl. First, I do not speak for the Administration on national security issues in any capacity -- public or personal,” he told BuzzFeed. “As a former infantry officer and combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I have only the highest regard for our servicemen and women. They are my friends, my colleagues, my mentors, my brothers, and sisters.”

A former veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2004, Friedman was vice chairman of the Democratic-aligned organization VoteVets before joining the Obama administration in 2009 as a public affairs officer in the Veterans Affairs Department.

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