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‘Nothing Happened, Ever’: General Defends Himself Against Sexual Assault Claims


WASHINGTON — Gen. John E. Hyten of the Air Force defended himself on Tuesday against accusations that he sexually assaulted a senior Army colonel who worked for him, telling a Senate hearing on his nomination to be President Trump’s next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he was innocent of the claims leveled against him.

“Nothing happened, ever,” General Hyten said in his opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It was the general’s first public comments about the allegations by Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, an active-duty colonel who has served 28 years in the Army and four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an interview with The New York Times last week, Colonel Spletstoser described numerous instances in which she said that General Hyten initiated unwanted sexual contact with her, culminating in an incident on the night of Dec. 2, 2017, when she said he entered her hotel room and rubbed himself against her until he ejaculated.

Colonel Spletstoser sat silently in the audience at the hearing as her former boss denied her allegations.

The Pentagon has stood firmly behind General Hyten. Heather Wilson, who was the Air Force secretary when the investigation into the general was opened, appeared at his side on Tuesday and told senators there was no corroborating evidence to support Colonel Spletstoser’s accusation.

“General Hyten was falsely accused and this matter should be set aside as you consider this nomination,” Ms. Wilson said. “I accept that it is entirely possible that his accuser is a wounded soldier who believes what she is saying is true, even if it is not.”

In an email responding to Ms. Wilson’s comments, Colonel Spletstoser said she was “offended that she would insinuate that my combat service would make me a liar. I served my country in battle.”

Colonel Spletstoser also said she was willing to discuss her allegations — and evidence she said supported them — in public testimony.

Sexual assault victims advocacy groups noted that the internal Air Force investigation, while finding no evidence to support the claims of Colonel Spletstoser, also found no evidence that she was lying.

“Now that Colonel Spletstoser has come forward publicly, the Air Force appears to be engaged in revisionist history in order to smear her,” said Col. Don Christensen, who retired from the Air Force and is president of Protect Our Defenders, which advocates on behalf of assault victims.

“As the Air Force’s own investigation has concluded, there is no evidence that Colonel Spletstoser has fabricated a single word of her allegations or has anything to gain by coming forward,” he said.

Also supporting the Air Force general was Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona, who announced earlier this year that she had been raped when she was a cadet at the Air Force Academy and that the Pentagon did not handle her complaints adequately when she came forward.

“Sexual assault happens in the military,” Ms. McSally said at the hearing. “It just didn’t happen in this case.”

In the case of Colonel Spletstoser, Ms. McSally said, “this wasn’t just a jump ball. Not a ‘he said, she said.’”

She added that “the truth is that General Hyten is innocent of these charges.”


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