A three star Air Force lieutenant general has been stripped of one of his stars following a report that he created a toxic command culture and even openly fat shamed a female subordinate on multiple occasions.
Lt. Gen. Lee Levy was the head of the Air Force Sustainment Center and had upwards of 40,000 military members under his command at one point.
In reference to how Levy treated his subordinates and command structure, one witness told the Inspector General, “I think if he was in the battlefield, he probably would’ve been shot in the back.” The report says that every single military member they interviewed who served under Levy expressed similar sentiments.
One female under Levy’s command seemed to have it particularly bad, with repeated jokes and comments about her weight and eating habits. According to Air Force Times:
“There were a lot of nights when I would come home just in tears or … just absolutely emotionally and mentally exhausted from the work,” she said. “After I worked for him and experienced that, it was more of, he’s the boogeyman that you just wanted to run away from.”
This airman told investigators that Levy would “always have to somewhat make a joke at my expense” to groups of people, typically when she was the lowest ranking airman. Although she never had any weight issues or difficulty meeting Air Force fitness standards due to her eating habits — one witness described her as “very much in shape” — Levy would comment about what she was eating, claim she was always sleeping, or say she never knew what she was doing.
She told investigators that one day, as she was sitting at her desk at lunchtime, Levy walked by and said, “Oink, oink, [redacted]. Are you really eating again?”
Levy’s comments made another person so uncomfortable he stepped away, the report stated. Levy looked at her, laughed and grabbed his own lunch before saying, “You’re always eating.”
Another witness corroborated her testimony and said Levy’s conduct was “terribly degrading and rude,” and a sign of toxic leadership.
Levy, through his attorney, did acknowledge some spirited back and forth banter, but denied the fat shaming comments and “oinking” noises:
“In general, there were frequently conversations and light-hearted banter among the ‘inner circle’ staff about who was eating what, among many, many other topics every single day,” Levy’s attorney said.
According to witnesses who spoke to the IG, Levy was known to scold subordinates if his coffee wasn’t the right temperature, and would drop files and folders on the ground just to watch someone else pick them up.
The IG also found that Levy would regularly order a subordinate to pay for travel expenses on a personal credit card and end up owing this individual hundreds of dollars at any given time. This would be a violation of the military’s legal policy on accepting loans from a subordinate.
Because of his transgressions, Levy, who was once one of the most powerful men in the Air Force, and was briefly nominated by President Trump for the Armed Services Committee (the President withdrew the nomination himself) was forced to retire last year and now will lose part of this retirement rank, which will affect his military benefits package.