Ex-defense secretaries implore Americans to 'be patient' with election results as large turnout expected

Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel caution voters to 'allow these election officials ... to do their job'

With exactly two weeks to go until the 2020 presidential election, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned on Fox Business Network's "Cavuto: Coast to Coast” that “this is a dangerous” and “defining time in the world.”

Hagel joined another former Pentagon chief, Leon Panetta, to discuss a Fox News op-ed they co-authored stating that they “share a common concern about the numerous and growing threats to our republic."

Hagel and Panetta wrote that “the United States has long provided a global standard for how to conduct free and fair elections,” adding that “our unique system has proven to be one of the best ways to promote both our values and national security interests abroad.”

The two urged “our fellow citizens to share in the patriotic duty of safeguarding free and fair elections during the coronavirus pandemic.”


“If we can’t even conduct elections in a democratic republic, in a way that people can have confidence and trust in those and that are secure, then what can we do right?” Hagel told host Neil Cavuto, adding that the United States has been “the leading democracy in the world for 250 years,” acknowledging that “we’re imperfect” and “we made a lot of mistakes,” but “we have been able to overcome these challenges and these issues over the years.”

“We have been able to produce safe, secure, and honest elections,” Hagel went on.

“When the world sees us floundering and off-balance and going through what we are going through now and probably will go through over the next few weeks, unfortunately, it makes the world more volatile, the world loses confidence in American leadership, they do not trust American leadership.”

President Trump has repeatedly expressed concern over the integrity of the 2020 election due to the massive increase in balloting by mail wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cavuto asked Hagel on Tuesday if he thinks President Trump is making the situation “worse by telegraphing his concerns outright?”

“I don’t think that adds to confidence in our voters and how the world perceives our elections when the president of the United States makes those kinds of comments,” Hagel responded.

He went on to say, however, that he doesn’t “blame the president of the United States through all of this.”

“I think there’s an underlying dynamic and factor across our country that we’ve seen coming in many ways,” Hagel continued. “It’s a breakdown in trust and confidence in our institutions, in our system, in our leaders. That’s not the president’s fault, but ... he doesn’t help when he makes comments like he does.”


More than 34 million early ballots have already been cast nationwide, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Cavuto noted that the concern is that all the ballots are “going to overwhelm the system.”

“There’s no question that we’re dealing with probably one of the most important elections, certainly in my lifetime, and I think most Americans understand how important this is,” Panetta said, adding that he believes there is going to be “a huge turnout."


“So there’s going to be a lot of ballots that are going to be presented to these state election officials around the country and the most important thing right now is that all of us have to be patient and allow this process to play out,” continued Panetta, who is also a former White House chief of staff.

"If we’re patient and allow these election officials in these different states to do their job, to count the ballots, then I think ultimately we will get a result that will represent a free and fair election for all of the American people.”

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.