General Accused of Calling Harassment Allegations 'Fake News' Is Fired

Marine Brig. Gen. Kurt W. Stein, then-director of Marine and Family Programs, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, speaks during a Silver Star Award ceremony at Marine Corps League Detachment 1419 in Mandan, North Dakota, on Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo R. Davila)
Marine Brig. Gen. Kurt W. Stein, then-director of Marine and Family Programs, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, speaks during a Silver Star Award ceremony at Marine Corps League Detachment 1419 in Mandan, North Dakota, on Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo R. Davila)

Days after announcing that the one-star director of Marine and Family Programs had been placed on administrative leave an investigation into comments he made at a town hall-style meeting, the Marine Corps said Monday that he was removed from his post and reassigned.

Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein was placed on leave April 11 after an anonymous complainant alleged he had made inappropriate remarks at an all-hands meeting at Quantico, Virginia, five days before.

According to an exclusive report by USA Today, Stein allegedly called allegations of sexual harassment against a Marine officer "fake news" and dismissed them using other crude language. The allegations in question were made by two female civilian employees of the Marine Corps and previously reported by USA Today.

A Marine Corps news release Monday stated that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller had reviewed an investigation into Stein's alleged remarks and determined that he had lost confidence "in Stein's ability to lead this particular organization."

"Leaders are responsible for establishing an environment conducive to mission accomplishment," Neller's spokesman, Lt. Col. Eric Dent, said in a statement.

Stein, a Marine Corps aviator who has flown more than 100 combat missions and logged some 4,500 flight hours, became director of Marine and Family Programs in November 2016.

The department oversees numerous counseling and prevention services, including programs designed to prevent against sexual assault and assist survivors.

Stein is the second general in two months to be removed from his post by Neller himself; in February, Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling, legislative assistant to the commandant, was suspended amid allegations he had created a hostile work environment.

Headed by Neller, Marine Corps leadership has been working aggressively to root out leadership and cultural issues that work to create a permissive environment for harassment, disrespect and misogyny.

In the wake of a scandal a little over a year ago in which it was discovered that some active duty Marines were using a closed Facebook group to share nude photos of female service members without their consent, the service has begun multiple lines of effort to change the culture.

Neller made Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters head of a task force to address gender bias, harassment and social media misconduct. He was later made an equal-opportunity "talent manager" for the Marine Corps.

Walters revealed in late 2017 that a number of Marine Corps unit commanders had already been removed from their posts for reasons related to an improper command climate regarding women.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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