LOS ANGELES (AP) — David Petraeus apologized Tuesday night to an audience of veterans for the conduct that led to his resignation as head of the CIA following the disclosure of an extramarital affair.
"Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago," Petraeus said. "I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters."
Dressed in a civilian's dark suit and red tie, Petraeus gave his first public speech since his resignation to about 600 people, including many uniformed and decorated veterans at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner. The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has remained largely in seclusion since resigning. His lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, has said that Petraeus has spent much of that time with his family.
While the speech was peppered with jokes about USC and UCLA's longstanding rivalry, he mostly talked about getting better treatment for veterans and soldiers, but stopped short of criticizing current practices.
"While our country continues to improve its support and recognition for all of our veterans and their families, we can and must do more," he said.
Petraeus received applause and a standing ovation before he began the evening's program by cutting a cake with a sword in military tradition, a task reserved for the highest ranking person in the room.
The retired four-star general's affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was discovered during an FBI investigation into emails she sent to another woman she viewed as a rival for his attention.
"I know I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and a number of others," said Petraeus, in a somber tone to the audience that included his wife. He also mentioned their children.
At the time the affair was made public, Petraeus told his staff he was guilty of "extremely poor judgment."
"Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," he said.
On Tuesday night, Petraeus noted the challenges of transitioning from military life to civilian life, a path he is currently navigating.
"There's often a view that because an individual was a great soldier, he or she will naturally do well in civilian world," Petraeus said. "In reality, the transition from military service to civilian pursuits is often quite challenging."