Signaling a desire to return to public life, retired Gen. David H. Petraeus offered an apology Tuesday for the scandal that led to his resignation as director of the CIA and brought an illustrious career to an abrupt end.
Petraeus has kept a low profile since admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in November. The speech, at a USC dinner honoring veterans and ROTC students, is the first step in what appears to be a carefully choreographed comeback bid.
Before about 600 guests in a hotel ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, a contrite Petraeus acknowledged that he is "regarded in a different light now" than he was a year ago.
"I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing," he said. "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."
Petraeus, 60, is credited with drafting the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine. As commander of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, he helped turn around the war. He also led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring from the Army in 2011 to become intelligence chief.
Petraeus resigned Nov. 9, citing "extremely poor judgment" for engaging in the affair, which came to light during an FBI investigation. Later that month, Petraeus testified behind closed doors at two congressional hearings on the attack by heavily armed militants in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last year.
But until Tuesday, he had generally avoided public appearances, retreating to his home in Arlington, Va. Friends and former aides said Petraeus was focusing on his family.