The Newsweek/Daily Beast's first-ever Hero Summit, which kicked off Wednesday in Washington, is being put on to honor active and retired members of the military. But the summit's attendees found themselves talking instead about the affair between Gen. David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell, a scandal that rocked the military and intelligence community this week.
Petraeus was originally expected to attend the summit, but was absent Wednesday night.
The summit's main speaker, Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, defended Petraeus to the assembled crowd. "He's the finest general I've ever worked for. And I obviously don't condone what he did, because Holly Petraeus is also a great American hero," McRaven said, referencing Petraeus's wife, a longtime advocate for military families. "I've never seen a guy more committed to his job... He is an American hero."
McRaven also defended Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, who was accused of a separate affair, as the "finest officer in the United States military right now." It is now believed that Allen, who commands NATO's International Security Assistance Force, did not engage in an affair.
"I'm saddened by it," McRaven said of the scandals. "I'll leave it at that."
Newsweek/Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown, who hosted the event, told reporters it was sad that a "man of great courage and service" met a "tragic end."
"Human beings are fallible," she said.
Brown also noted that she might ask prominent screen and TV writer Aaron Sorkin, who was also in attendance Wednesday, how he might write the Petraeus story on screen.
Lanny Davis, a Democratic operative who handled a number of crises for the Clinton White House, dispensed advice at the summit for how Petraeus should deal with the scandal. "Transparency, transparency, transparency," he told reporters.
Other guests included Bono, who reportedly wore shades for the greater part of the evening, actress Jennifer Beals, who said she was there to do "research" for a TV show in development about the military, and longtime Michigan Rep. John Dingell, who served in the Army during WWII.
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