Marine general removed after calling reports of alleged sexual harassment 'fake news'

PHOTO: U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Kurt W. Stein, Director of Marine and Family Programs, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, speaks at during Silver Star Award ceremony in honor of Lance Cpl. Donald J. Cline in Mandan, N.D., Nov 1, 2017.PlayLance Cpl. Ricardo R. Davil/Department of Defense file
WATCH Why this domestic worker is speaking out about sexual harassment

The Marine Corps has removed the general officer in charge of Marine and Family Programs – Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein – for making inappropriate public comments about an ongoing sexual harassment investigation.

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Stein described articles about the investigation as “fake news” and joked about a Navy chaplain recently removed from duty for sexual misconduct, a defense official familiar with the investigation said.

Stein, who also oversees the Sexual Assault Prevention and Assault Office, was removed after an investigation into remarks he made at a town hall meeting at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., several weeks ago.

Stein's reference to "fake news" was first reported by USA Today, but ABC News has learned new details about what else Stein said that day.

It was during an April 6 town hall that he described press reports about a sexual harassment investigation at his command as "fake news," the defense official familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

According to a statement from one witness at the town hall, Stein's remarks on sexual harassment allegations referred to two civilian employees whose complaints against other employees in the command, dating back more than a year, are under investigation, the defense official said.

The official said Stein also joked about a Navy chaplain who had recently been fired from his post in New Orleans for sexual misconduct, saying that "aviators should live vicariously through the chaplain’s 'actions' and that "chaplains are getting more 'action' than aviators."

In a statement, the Marine Corps said it received an anonymous call to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service hotline on April 9 about Stein’s comments at the town hall.

According to the official, the NCIS investigation found that at least 70 of the nearly 120 Marines and civilian personnel who attended the town hall complained about his comments and interpreted the comments as being hostile to the workforce.

Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, directed a command investigation that was completed April 13. After reviewing the investigation, the Marine Corps announced Monday that Neller had lost confidence in Stein’s ability to lead this particular organization.

Stein remains on administrative leave pending reassignment within the Marine Corps in the coming weeks. His replacement has not yet been identified.

This incident comes as two other Marine Corps general officers have been removed from their positions for command climate issues this year.

Stein assumed the duties of Director Marine and Family Programs in November 2016. A Naval Aviator by trade, he has flown more than 100 combat missions and accumulated more than 4,500 flight hours in numerous platforms.

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