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Hagel makes Taliban joke at Nebraska forum

During a question and answer session following a relatively dry policy speech at the University of Nebraska in Omaha tonight, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed to the audience and joked, "You're not a member of the Taliban, are you?"

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calls on a member of the audience while answering questions at the University of Nebraska-Omaha Wednesday.

The next questioner turned out to be Robin Ghandi, an assistant professor of Indian descent from the college, who indicated Thursday that Hagel was not addressing him directly. “I was honored to attend Secretary of Defense Hagel’s speech on Wednesday,” Ghandi said in a statement released by the university. “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.”

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little issued a statement Wednesday evening on the question, saying, “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. 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.”

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