US National Security Advisor Susan Rice is defending her comments that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, freed after being held for five years by the Taliban, had served “with honour”.
Her remarks have come under fire amid allegations Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan only after deserting his post.
Rice, who first spoke on a US talk show last weekend shortly after Bergdahl was turned over to US special forces, said it was too soon to judge the soldier’s actions.
“This is a young man whose circumstances we are still learning about. He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty,” Rice told CNN on Friday.
“Let the military work in the first instance to bring him back to health. We will have a full, comprehensive review of what happened and then we will be able to” determine whether he was a deserter, she said.
Rice said regardless, her description of Bergdahl as a man who served “with honour and distinction” was correct.
“What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man that volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That is, itself, a very honourable thing,” she said.
The uproar over Rice’s Bergdahl comments is drawing parallels to another controversy triggered by remarks she made soon after the assault at the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Serving at the time as US envoy to the United Nations, Rice initially said the attack was fuelled by local anger over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.
The comments sparked a firestorm of criticism, especially among Republicans.
It has since become clear that the September 11, 2012 attack on the mission – which cost the lives of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens – was planned by armed militants.