CARTAGENA, Colombia – President Barack Obama, speaking for the first time about allegations that Secret Service agents hired prostitutes, said Sunday that “of course I’ll be angry” if those accusations are proven true by an investigation.
Obama said the agents represent the United States and are supposed to conduct themselves with the highest levels of dignity anywhere in the world. “Obviously, what’s been reported doesn’t match up to those standards,” Obama said in a news conference wrapping his appearance at a Latin America summit.
The president never directly mentioned the specific accusations, confirmed by media outlets, that agents were cavorting with prostitutes before the president arrived in Colombia.
The Secret Service sent 11 agents home and placed them on leave for misconduct as the agency reviews what happened.
“I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous,” Obama said. “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry. . . . We are representing the people of the United States, and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards.”
The unseemly topic dogged Obama to the end in Colombia, where he fought to keep a focus on America’s trade relations with partners throughout the Americas. And it is likely to follow him back to the United States as lawmakers in the Republican-led House consider whether to hold hearings.
When Obama took a question about the topic, he was standing next to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Obama said he would reserve judgment until the investigation is done.
Five U.S. military service members were also alleged to have been involved in the incident.
The 11 employees in question were special agents and Uniformed Division Officers. None were assigned to directly protect Obama.
Obama attended a land-titling ceremony with Colombian pop star Shakira in Cartagena. Obama and Shakira spoke to mark the handing over of titles to representatives of the Afro-Colombian community who have lost land to armed groups.