GOP rep scolds Gillibrand for tearing into Marine general over nude-photo scandal

GOP rep scolds Gillibrand for tearing into Marine general over nude-photo scandal
© Greg Nash

A GOP lawmaker on Wednesday defended Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller following intense questioning from lawmakers over the nude-photo-sharing scandal rocking the Marines Corps.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine veteran, penned an op-ed praising Neller for responding “forcefully and without hesitation or delay” to the scandal while scolding lawmakers who may question his leadership.

“The Marine Corps, at his direction, committed to a full investigation and to take appropriate action against those who violated the privacy and rights of the Marines who are the subjects of the photos,” Hunter wrote in the op-ed published by Fox News.

“For some lawmakers and observers, this commitment isn’t enough. Predictably, the controversy has now morphed into an opportunity for elected officials—led by New York Democrat Senator Kristen Gillibrand—to publicly chide the Commandant and raise questions about his leadership without regard for the fact that he is still presiding over Marines in a shooting war," he added.

Gillibrand tore into Neller during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday over allegations that hundreds of Marines shared nude photos and personal information of female Marines and veterans in a private Facebook group. The Facebook group, called Marines United, had nearly 30,000 followers.

The Democratic senator raised her voice when asking the Marine commandant why no one had been held accountable since the first reports of online harassment came to light in 2013.

“I have to say, when you say to us it’s got to be different, that rings hollow,” Gillibrand said.

Lawmakers across party lines echoed Gillibrand’s frustration at the leadership’s lack of action to deter such cyber problems.

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Hunter called Gillibrand’s questions “[n]o different than the blatant disrespect demonstrated by the Marines at the center of the controversy.”

He added that lawmakers’ scrutiny at the hearing “underscore[s] an obvious level of disdain for the Marine Corps and gives added attention to the wrongful view that Marines are nothing more than a group of uncontrollable misfits. Something they’re not.”

Hunter went so far as to indicate Gillibrand’s questions could cause “a cascade effect that gives others the courage to take even more drastic steps, among them calls for the Commandant’s resignation.”

No lawmaker has yet called for Neller’s resignation.

House Armed Services Committee member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) last week called for the Marines accused of sharing nude photos of female service members to be fired and urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “hold your leadership accountable for these failures to establish a culture of dramatic change.”  

“That means heads should roll,” Speier said. “Action is what's needed for the integrity of the military. Survivors must be supported. That will only happen if those bad Marines are drummed out of the Corps, with no exceptions.”

Hunter, meanwhile, argued the nude photos that were posted “are not exclusively a Marine Corps problem. The other military services are sure to encounter private sites among their own ranks.”

“What he needs now is less showmanship in the halls of Congress and more trust that [Neller] will lead in a way that we all expect and know he will,” he concluded.