WASHINGTON -- NASA Administrator Mike Griffin defended the U.S. space agency's embattled inspector general Thursday, saying in an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers that "management counseling" would be a sufficient response to what he described as Robert Cobb's "overly harsh treatment of subordinates."
Three senior Democratic lawmakers called on President George Bush this week to fire Cobb after receiving a 1,000-page report from the Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency that found Cobb had been verbally abusive to employees and too chummy with Griffin's predecessor to be an effective internal watchdog.
Griffin, in his first public comments about Cobb since Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and two senior Democrats in the House called for Cobb's dismissal, said he saw nothing in the Integrity Committee's report that warranted Cobb's removal from office.
"The board that investigated did find that Inspector General Cobb was, shall we say, sometimes a bit rough on some of his employees and that's a managerial issue which we will address," Griffin said. "But the authority of his office has not been abused and his impartiality as an inspector general, at least to me, is not in question."
Griffin also said that he did not believe the president, who appointed Cobb, would fire him.
"[I]t was my recommendation that we stop well short of removing Inspector General Cobb and I believe that the president has accepted that recommendation," Griffin said.
Nelson and the two House members, Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Brad Miller (D-N.C.), said Tuesday that they were not satisfied with the response from NASA or the White House and intended to move forward with hearings on Cobb's professional conduct.
Griffin's interview is slated for broadcast Sunday.
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