Report: Air Force general mocked female airman’s weight, belittled staff, ultimately lost a star
By NANCY DILLON | The New York Daily News | Published: November 27, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — A top-ranking Air Force commander mercilessly mocked a female airman’s weight and bullied staff to the point he was stripped of a star upon his official retirement this month, the Air Force Times reported.
“Oink, oink,” then-Lt. Gen. Lee Levy allegedly said as he walked by the female airman’s desk in one reported incident. “Are you really eating again?”
The comment was corroborated by witnesses who spoke to the Air Force’s Office of the Inspector General, according to the report.
The intimidating incident made one witness so uncomfortable, he reportedly stepped away, according to the IG report obtained by the Air Force Times.
Another witness said Levy’s conduct was “terribly degrading and rude” — evidence of the toxic climate he created as commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
He disparaged the woman again on a business trip to Washington around March 2017, the report said, remarking that she was to blame for the bumpy ride in their shared vehicle.
“If you lose a few pounds, maybe the vehicle would have less strain on it,” he allegedly said, according to an unidentified witness quoted in the report.
The female airman testified that during that drive, Levy also said she needed to watch how much she ate because her uniform pants might not fit anymore.
“His comments were inappropriate, particularly given his position and the public contexts in which they were made,” the IG report said. “They undermined (the airman’s) dignity and were not respectful of her.”
Levy also had a history of screaming at subordinates and intentionally dropping files on the floor as a “total power move” that forced others to pick them up, the report said.
One staffer was so shocked, he reportedly took a picture of one of the piles.
“I still don’t quite know how to respond to it,” said one witness who picked up folders on three separate occasions. “At the time I felt like was a, you know, ‘Get on your knees, boy … pick that stuff up.’ ”
Levy denied any wrongdoing in his interview with the IG and through his lawyer, the Air Force Times reported.
“I attempted to be tough but fair in my leadership style as we strove for excellence in everything we did,” Levy said in a statement to The Times provided by his lawyer.
“Had concerns been voiced at the time, I would certainly have addressed the issue to resolve it. Unfortunately, those who are now complaining waited until I left command and was retiring,” he said.
The Air Force essentially demoted Levy to two stars during the investigation and decided not to restore his third star after completing the probe.
He officially retired with only two stars on Nov. 1.