Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stood up for her former colleague Gen. John Hyten in his confirmation hearing Tuesday to be the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff amid accusations of sexual misconduct.
Ms. Wilson, who is about to begin her tenure as president of the University of Texas at El Paso next month, introduced President Trump’s pick to be the second highest-ranking uniformed military officer and told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Gen. Hyten was falsely accused, and this matter should be set aside.”
Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that a senior military officer accused the Air Force general of sexual misconduct, prompting several investigations, including a military inquiry, but investigators did not find enough evidence to charge Gen. Hyten.
The accuser, Kathryn Spletstoser, was in the front row of the audience during the hearing and remained straight-faced through opening remarks. She has said she felt a “moral responsibility” to come forward after she said the general kissed her and pressed himself against her when they were alone in a hotel room.
“I accept that it is entirely possible that his accuser is a wounded soldier who believes that what she is saying is true, even if it is not,” Ms. Wilson said. “That possibility makes this entire situation very sad.”
Ms. Wilson praised the committee for handling the accusations “appropriately” and explained that a team of dozens of investigators interviewed more than 60 people, including Gen. Hyten’s personal security team.
In his opening statement, Gen. Hyten addressed the allegations and told the committee it has been a “painful time” for his family.
He has repeatedly denied the allegations and continued to maintain his innocence before the Senate panel.
Sexual misconduct in the military has become a rising issue after a Pentagon report earlier this year found that instances of “unwanted sexual contact” in the armed forces increased by about 38% from 2016 to 2018.
Gen. Hyten currently serves as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command and has been rumored to be a top pick to lead a potential Space Force.
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