These comments appeared to play down the extent of the controversy, the worst in decades to hit the agency responsible for protecting the president, his family and other senior officials, The Guardian writes.
“What these guys were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore,” Obama said during a taping of an appearance on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon TV programme while on a visit to North Carolina.
“99.9 per cent” of Secret Service agents put their lives on the line and did a great job. These guys are incredible. They protect me, they protect Michelle, they protect our girls, they protect our officials all around the world,” Mr Obama continued. “A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do.”
Obama’s comments come after two more secret agents resigned, rising the total number of men to have left the organisation over the scandal to nine.
One of the agents who reigned on Tuesday has been reportedly staying at the same hotel as Mr Obama, the Hilton, during the trip. A third agent had his security clearance revoked, believed to be the first step in being removed from the company.
The scandal took place this month shortly before Barack Obama arrived for a meeting of regional presidents.
According to reports, twelve Secret Service agents were investigated over the incident, along with 12 other military personnel. One was cleared of misconduct but ordered to take administrative leave. Another two were cleared on Tuesday, The Telegraph claims.
“At this point, all 12 have either been cleared of serious misconduct, resigned, retired, been notified of personnel actions to permanently revoke their security clearances, or have been proposed for permanent removal for cause,” Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said in a statement.
“The Secret Service is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light.”
Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, said “whistleblower people” had called his office with allegations about past misconduct by secret service personnel and “we’re beginning to talk to them”. Lieberman also added that he was planning hearings on the scandal in the near future.
“Since we announced the investigation, some whistleblower people have called the office. So we’re beginning to talk to them. When we’re ready, we’ll go public,” Lieberman told reporters.
“Some of it seems credible, or at least worth investigating more,” he said. A committee aide said just one call had been received so far.
Lieberman said the focus of his committee’s inquiry would not be events in Cartagena, which is being investigated by the secret service, but also any incidents in recent years.
“I want to ask questions about whether there was any other evidence of misconduct by secret service agents in the last five or 10 years,” he said. “If so, what was done about it? Could something have been done to have prevented what happened in Cartagena? And now that it has happened, what do they intend to do?”
The leaders of the Senate armed services committee, Carl Levin and John McCain, reported to get a briefing on Wednesday from the Pentagon on the part played by military service members in the scandal.