A Pentagon probe cleared General Stanley McChrystal of any wrongdoing Monday and cast doubt over the accuracy of a Rolling Stone article that got the former Afghanistan war chief sacked.
The Defense Department Office of Inspector General concluded there was insufficient evidence that McChrystal or his staff had violated Pentagon standards, after interviewing several witnesses and reviewing a US Army investigation into the case.
The Army had concluded that McChrystal and his staff had, in fact, made derogatory statements about their civilian superiors.
But the inspector general's report found that "not all the events at issue occurred as reported in the article... In some instances, we found no witness who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported."
Quotes attributed to "sources familiar" with a meeting between President Barack Obama and senior military officers during which McChrystal was said to have though the president looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the Pentagon brass could not be confirmed by the investigation.
It also could not confirm quotes attributed to "an adviser" who had allegedly said McChrystal was "pretty disappointed" with Obama after a one-on-one meeting with the president.
The article had described drunken, offensive conduct by McChrystal and his staff at a dinner party in Paris, but the inspector general concluded it was in fact a "celebratory" occasion marking the general's wedding anniversary.
Comments that then-national security adviser James Jones was a "clown" and calling late Afghanistan-Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke a "wounded animal" also could not be verified.
But the probe confirmed an exchange between McChrystal and his aides over Afghanistan policy, in which the general who led US and coalition forces in Afghanistan disagreed with Vice President Joe Biden.
While practicing for a speech, McChrystal said: "Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" Who's that" to which an aide rejoined: "Biden? Did you say bite me?"
The investigation, however, was unable to confirm the comment came from a "top adviser," as asserted by the Rolling Stones article.
Neither McChrystal nor Michael Hastings, the report's author, agreed to comment for the Pentagon inspector general's investigation.
McChrystal was swiftly relieved of his command in Kabul in June after comments attributed to him and his aides in the Rolling Stone article. He retired from the military in July.
The uproar over the Rolling Stone bombshell triggered further scrutiny from Pentagon leaders on how the military handles the media, as the agency had increasingly empowered commands in Kabul and Baghdad to speak directly to reporters and release information about operations.
But just last week, Obama came face to face and shook hands with McChrystal at an event launching a major new effort to help military families.