A Senate committee approved Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday despite accusations that he sexually assaulted a colleague. Hyten is currently head of U.S. Strategic Command.
Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser said that in 2017, while she was working as one of Hyten’s top aids, he kissed, hugged, and rubbed against her, against her wishes.
“I realized I have a moral responsibility to come forward,” Spletstoser told the New York Times. “I could not live with myself if this happens to someone else and I didn’t do anything to stop it.”
According to the Associated Press, “she said she repeatedly pushed him away and told him to stop, and that he tried to derail her military career after she rebuffed him.”
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week, Hyten denied the accusations. The Pentagon said an Air Force investigation did not back up Spletstoser’s sexual assault, but it also did not find that she was lying. Spletstoser told Politico that authorities mishandled the investigation. “There was sufficient evidence to prefer charges for felony sex assault and a myriad of other ... offenses,” she said.
“If he’s actually confirmed as vice chairman,” Spletstoser said, “it tells every general officer or flag officer that they’re above the law, that victims do not matter. ... You will not have victims coming forward when justice doesn’t get served. We [the military] have a horrible track record on this anyway.”
The New York Times described one particularly violating alleged assault Spletstoser described that took place in a hotel room in December 2017 during a work trip:
According to her account, General Hyten reached for her hand. She became alarmed, and stood back up. He stood up too, she said, and pulled her to him and kissed her on the lips while pressing himself against her, then ejaculated, getting semen on his sweatpants and on her yoga pants.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that the accusation against Hyten “was not believable. There was absolutely no truth to it.”
“Sexual assault happens in the military. It just didn’t happen in this case,” said Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who is a rape survivor herself. She was one of 20 legislators who voted in support of Hyten’s nomination.
Retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, president of sexual assault advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, told the Times that the Defense Department was protecting Hyten because of his status.
“She has received no apology,” Christensen said. “Instead, the Pentagon praised the man she says sexually assaulted her.” He added: “If this were Staff Sgt. Hyten, he’d be getting charged. The only reason he wasn’t charged is because he’s General Hyten.”
Hyten clearly fits the bill for this administration alongside his guy pals President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas.