Gen. John Hyten ‘did something incredibly wrong to me,’ says Col. Kathryn Spletstoser

Gen. John Hyten ‘did something incredibly wrong to me,’ says Col. Kathryn Spletstoser


JUDY WOODRUFF: Air Force General John Hyten
was nominated in April by President Trump
to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff.
But he’s been accused of sexual assault and
making unwanted advances by one of his former
assistants, Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser.
Spletstoser has been in the Army for 28 years.
She’s received glowing fitness reviews, including
from General Hyten himself, who wrote in 2017
that Spletstoser was “in the top 1 percent
of all colonels I have seen in my 36 years
of service” and that — quote — “Kathy will
be the kind of general officer the Army needs,
ready today for brigadier general, unlimited
potential to lead.”
At his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday,
General Hyten denied Spletstoser’s allegations.
GEN.
JOHN HYTEN, U.S. Air Force: It has been a
painful time for me and my family, but I want
to state to you and to the American people,
in the strongest possible terms, that these
allegations are false.
There were — there were — there was a very
extensive, thorough investigation that Dr.
Wilson described which revealed the truth:
Nothing happened ever.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the Senate Armed Services
Committee voted to move Hyten’s nomination
to the full Senate, with Republican Senator
Joni Ernst joining six other Democrats in
voting against General Hyten.
And a warning: There is explicit, graphic
language in this conversation with Colonel
Spletstoser, which I recorded a short time
ago.
With me now is Army Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser.
Colonel, thank you very much for being here.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER, Alleged Sexual Assault
Victim: You’re welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, tell us first, what was
your relationship with General Hyten before
these advances that you say happened took
place?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Well, we were — I was
his CAG director, his commanders action group
director.
I basically developed a pretty good relationship
with him early on.
I was probably his most favorite subordinate,
first among equals.
That’s the way he treated me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Saw him every day?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Every day, all day and
on travel, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you say that these unwelcomed
advances started in early 2017.
Just give us an example.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: So it started in January
2017 on a trip to Palo Alto.
And we were doing work in his hotel after
his — his hotel room after work hours.
And he asked me to stay behind.
We went over and covered some stuff for the
next day, engagements at Stanford.
And then, as I was leaving, he actually stopped
me on my way out the door, pulled my hand
to his groin, and he had an erect penis.
And I was very shocked and confused.
Like, I didn’t understand what that meant.
I was mortified.
He — I just turned around, and he gave me
sort of a face that was very disconcerting.
Like, he thought I would like that.
He didn’t say anything.
I said — I basically didn’t say anything.
I left.
And that was the first encounter.
I thought, it could have been a mistake or
an accident.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you have said that these
advances continued off and on through 2017,
and then, in December, something more serious
happened.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Well, I would say, in
June, something more serious happened.
In June in Washington, D.C. — and we made
a lot of trips to D.C. — this was another
time where we were actually going over some
work for the next day to prepare for some
engagements in D.C.
And he asked me to stay and go over some work.
And in that — and it was in his hotel suite,
and it was after the duty hour, but it wasn’t
very late.
And he stood over my shoulder.
He grabbed my breasts and turned me around
and started kissing me passionately.
And I pushed him off.
I said: “This is not going to happen.
Like, what are you doing?”
And he said: “I just wanted to see how that
felt.
I thought you would like it.”
And I’m like: “I didn’t like it.
Why would you think that?”
And he’s like: “Well, I thought you liked
me.”
And I was like: “Sir, I do like you, but not
like that.”
And he is like: “Well, why not?”
I’m, like: “You’re married, you’re my boss
and you’re not my type.”
And so he asked, like, what my type was.
And I said: “Someone not married, someone
not my boss, and I prefer men of color.”
And he made a snarky remark about that’s why
myself and his former aide got along so well,
because he was an African-American guy.
We proceeded to have a conversation that was
very argumentative.
He got upset.
He actually sat down on the couch and actually
started crying.
And I was very confused and shocked at that.
He’s a very emotional guy.
But now I’m sort of in a position where he
did something incredibly wrong to me, and
I don’t really know what to do.
But I got really upset and really angry and
mad.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you continued to work with
him through 2017.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: I did.
So, I thought he got the point, like, that
it can never happen again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, in December, you
were on another travel — trip with him.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Yes, there were some
small incidents in between there.
But, yes, we were at the Reagan security forum,
the defense forum.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In California.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And he asked you — he showed
up at your hotel room outside the door.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you let him in?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Yes.
So, no, it was after the dinner that — and
it was a great event.
The whole forum went really, really well.
And so, as I was preparing to go to sleep
for the evening, I was putting on face cream,
and I get a knock on the door.
And I thought, well, it’s as probably the
aide or the COMO or the security detail.
And it was him.
And he just walked in my room.
And I’m like thinking something was wrong.
Like, did something happen?
Did I screw up?
Did I not meet the standard or something for
that day?
And he’s like: “No, no, I just want to talk.”
He had come into my room with his work binder.
And so he’s like: “I just want to talk.”
And I’m like, OK.
So he sat on a bed and he asked me to sit
next to him.
And I was really confused then.
I was, like, oh, this is sort of weird, but
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but,
you know, everything’s been going really well,
so I wasn’t afraid.
Then he took my hand.
And I stood up.
And I was, like, “No,” and he grabbed me.
He stood up and started kissing me passionately.
And — and he wouldn’t stop, even though I
said — he said he wanted to make love to
me.
I said, “I — that’s not going to happen.”
Like, I think I might have said: “No, you
want to have sex.”
And he like: “No, I want to make love.”
And I’m like just trying to get loose from
him.
And I really couldn’t.
And he said: “Well, you like it.
You know you’re responding to this.
You like it.”
And I said: “No, I’m not.
I don’t like it.”
He proceeded to still kiss me and hold me
pretty tight and touch me on the butt and
some other areas.
And then, finally, he was grinding on my leg,
which was kind of weird.
And then he ejaculated after a while.
And so I was mortified.
I pushed him off.
I was really scared at that point.
Like, at that point, I wasn’t, like, physically
scared, but now this has gone through a whole
other level of…
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is your superior officer.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: This is a four-star general.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A four-star general.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: I’m a colonel.
He’s a 6’4” man.
I’m 5’7”.
This crossed the line in a big way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you didn’t report it to
anyone, is that right, at the time?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: That’s correct.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: So, I didn’t really feel
like I was comfortable with having a venue
to report it.
His security detail, they’re there to protect
him, not me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you thought that you would
just keep it to yourself?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: I did.
I thought really — in the June incident,
I thought he got the point and that it would
— that it really never would happen again.
I know he does love his wife, so I was, like,
oh, this is just sort of an infatuation.
And so I was just really confused.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You — as you know, General
Hyten completely denies this.
We heard what he said just a moment ago.
He says it never happened.
And then you have the Air Force Office of
Special Investigations.
They looked into this.
And I’m quoting.
They said: “We spoke to 53 people in three
countries and 13 states and reviewed thousands
of e-mails,” but said they concluded — quote
— “There was insufficient evidence to support
any finding of misconduct.”
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: So, that’s not exactly
true.
So, Air Force Office of Special Investigations’
reports do not make those type of determinations.
They are fact-gatherers.
They present the facts.
They did corroborate every single thing I
said in my sworn statement that everything
that I said happened.
There were some other things to corroborate,
less the sex acts, which I went in saying,
this is — this will probably be a he said/she
said.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you finally did go public
after he was nominated for this position as
vice chair.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: So, I didn’t go public.
I made an appropriate…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You made…
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Yes, so, through discussing
the issue with the Department of Defense inspector
general, who had asked me for some more information,
I had been dealing with them on the other
investigations that were — had been concluded.
And they said: “Look, if there’s something
more, you need to tell us now.”
I talked to my boss and said — you know,
kind of hinted around, “This is kind of what
it is.”
And he’s, like: “That’s a tough choice.
Think about it hard.
And if you do decide, we will send it through
the I.G. first, and then they will — we will”
— it would go to a law enforcement agency.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what do you make, when all
is said and done, Colonel Spletstoser, of
how this was handled by the military?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: The agents in charge
admitted they were being rushed and there
was a lot of pressure to make this kind of
— get it done quick.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you — the public, people
watching you right now are going to say, this
is her version of events vs. his version.
Is that how you see it?
Is it she said/he said, or is it more than
that?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: I went in and said, basically,
look, this is going to be hard to prove the
actual sex act, but here you’re going to find
other stuff.
And they did.
When they said there was insufficient evidence
to charge him, that investigation uncovered
a whole lot of things about General Hyten’s
leadership style.
And, at a minimum…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean negative?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Negative.
It corroborated evidence where he was untruthful
in his OSI interview, and that was corroborated
by at least 12 statements, not — that were
in that investigation.
It was also corroborated.
I mean, he could have been charged with dereliction
of duty, conduct unbecoming, failure to maintain
good order and discipline, and — this is
the hardest one, because he always talked
about, oh, his red line was treating people
with dignity and respect.
But I would argue he didn’t treat me with
dignity and respect at all by doing that or
the way I was treated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You also said yesterday, Colonel,
that — you said you’re doing this so that
General Hyten doesn’t do this when he’s — if
he is confirmed as the vice chair of the Joint
Chiefs.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: So, the bottom line for
me, I felt like it was a moral responsible.
At that point, like, when his nomination was
announced, it’s — because he told me he was
retiring.
My replacement was a man.
His timeline was short.
I took him seriously when he said that.
And then he gets nominated, and now that fundamentally
changes the equation.
And that’s — I was really upset.
And that’s when I had a conversation with
my brother and my boss and said, look, what
should I do?
And it became sort of a responsibility to
report it, so people know and that it would
ensure that he didn’t get the opportunity
to do this to somebody else for the next four
years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What signal do you think this
sends to other women, or men, who are the
victims of sexual assault in the military?
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: It basically says, look,
if your boss is a general officer, no matter
what you do, you won’t be taken seriously,
despite the evidence.
It means that they will try to blame, shame
and discredit you, because the OSI investigation
didn’t investigate him.
It really did — it was victim-focused, like
trying to discredit me.
And it failed to do that.
But it also says, hey, not only will we not
believe you and we will discredit you along
the way, but we will probably let him get
promoted, too.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser,
thank you very much for talking with us.
COL.
KATHRYN SPLETSTOSER: Thank you.

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