President Barack Obama is "concerned" about weekend car crashes that left Commerce Secretary John Bryson facing felony hit-and-run charges, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday, telling reporters that unspecified "health-related issues" played a role in the incidents.
"We're obviously concerned about the incident, concerned about Secretary Bryson's health-related issues that played a role in this incident, and we're still gathering information about it," Carney said at his daily briefing.
The spokesman rebuffed requests for more details about Bryson's condition, at one point saying: "I'm certainly not a doctor. I certainly was not a presiding doctor on this case." A spokeswoman for Bryson, Jennifer Friedman, said earlier in the day that the secretary had had a "seizure," although she left unclear whether the secretary had suffered the seizure before, during or after the accidents.
Carney revealed that the White House only learned of Bryson's Saturday afternoon crashes on Sunday, and he said that Obama only became aware of the incidents on Monday morning. The spokesman said Bryson had been driving alone, without his security detail, which accounted for "some of the difficulty in getting details" regarding the unusual events.
Bryson faces felony hit-and-run charges in Southern California after allegedly causing two separate car accidents in the space of five minutes late Saturday afternoon. Bryson was at the wheel of his Lexus when he rear ended a Buick that was stopped at a railroad crossing in San Gabriel, according to the San Gabriel Police Department. He spoke with the Buick's male occupants, then drove away, "hitting the same car again as he left," said a police statement. The men tailed Bryson and called police. They also witnessed the secretary hit a second car.
Obama has not spoken to Bryson, who talked Monday morning with White House chief of staff Jack Lew, Carney said.
The spokesman repeatedly ducked questions regarding whether Bryson could continue to serve as commerce secretary. "I can tell you that the president nominated Secretary Bryson to serve because he felt he was capable of doing the job. And he has been an effective commerce secretary since he was confirmed," Carney said.
"You understand that this happened—you know, he was alone; he was on private time, not with his security detail; he was hospitalized. So there's more that needs to be learned," Carney said.