Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since President Bush relieved him last year, denied yesterday that he or top generals tried to cover up the “friendly fire” death of former football star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan three years ago.
Rumsfeld, at times combative with lawmakers, acknowledged that he urged Pentagon colleagues to “keep an eye on” Tillman when the former Arizona Cardinals safety gave up a lucrative football contract to enlist in the Army. But he said that he had no memory of when he first learned that Tillman’s death on April 22, 2004, might have resulted from fratricide, instead citing the recollection of an aide who attended a meeting with Rumsfeld shortly before the real circumstances of Tillman’s death were made public.
“It was badly handled, and errors were made, but . . . I know that I would not engage in a coverup,” Rumsfeld told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.