LOS ANGELES (AP) — In his first public speech since resigning as head of the CIA, David Petraeus apologized for the extramarital affair that “caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.”
The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars struck a somber, apologetic tone as he spoke to about 600 people, including his wife and many uniformed and decorated veterans, at the University of Southern California’s annual ROTC dinner on Tuesday.
“I know I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and a number of others,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus has remained largely in seclusion since resigning after the extramarital affair with his biographer was disclosed. His lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, has said Petraeus spent much of that time with his family.
Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Petraeus made motions toward a return to public life as a civilian. He spoke of a need for better treatment for veterans and soldiers, though he stopped short of criticizing current practices.
“While our country continues to improve its support and recognition for all of our veterans and their families, we can and must do more,” he said.
The retired four-star general also noted the challenges of transitioning from military life, saying: “There’s often a view that because an individual was a great soldier, he or she will naturally do well in civilian world. In reality, the transition from military service to civilian pursuits is often quite challenging.”
He received applause and a standing ovation before he began the evening’s program by cutting a cake with a sword in military tradition, a task reserved for the highest ranking person in the room.
He started his speech by addressing the affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, which was discovered during an FBI investigation into emails she sent to another woman she viewed as a romantic rival.
“Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago. I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters,” he said.