Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Wednesday made a joke about the Taliban just before an Indian member of the audience rose to ask a question.
The audience member, Robin Gandhi, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, asked the question during the question-and-answer portion of Hagel's
appearance at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Hagel, while waiting for the question, joked, “You're not a member of the Taliban, are you?”
In a video of the exchange, there is silence following Hagel's remark. Seconds later, Gandhi asks his question.
“Following a question related to the Taliban, the secretary made an off-the-cuff joke before the next questioner was called or selected at an appearance at the University of Nebraska at Omaha,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little. “Absolutely no slight toward any individual in the audience was intended. That's the last thing the secretary would do under any circumstance, in this or any other setting. He didn't know who would be called next to pose a question.”
Gandhi released a statement about the exchange through the university's communications department.
“I was honored to attend Secretary of Defense Hagel's speech on Wednesday. I was able to ask a question, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his answer. Before I rose to ask a question, there was apparently some confusion that did not involve me,” the statement read.
A headline on an earlier version of this story and the story's text indicated that Chuck Hagel directed his joke specifically at the UNO professor.