WASHINGTON — Nebraskans have come to know Gen. John Hyten as head of U.S. Strategic Command and hailed his nomination earlier this year to the highest levels of military leadership.
But that nomination is now in jeopardy amid allegations that Hyten sexually harassed and assaulted one of his aides while running StratCom, which is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.
The accuser told the Associated Press that Hyten subjected her to a series of unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her in 2017. And she says he tried to derail her military career after she rebuffed him.
Her allegations come as the Senate Armed Services Committee is reviewing Hyten’s nomination to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the second-highest military position at the Pentagon.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is one member of the committee who has made a point of pressing all nominees about any past misconduct.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
“These kinds of allegations are serious,” Hirono told The World-Herald on Thursday. “I just learned about them yesterday, so I will be reviewing some documents tomorrow before I make a decision.”
An Air Force investigation did not uncover evidence to support the allegations.
“There was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten,” Pentagon spokeswoman Col. DeDe Halfhill said in a statement. “Gen. Hyten cooperated with the investigation. With more than 38 years of service to our Nation, Gen. Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot.”
And StratCom officials also provided a written statement:
“U.S. Strategic Command fully cooperated with the investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. According to Air Force officials, there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten.”
But one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the subject involved personnel matters, said the investigation also found no evidence that the woman was lying.
Armed Services Committee members were briefed this week on the allegations and the results of the Air Force investigation.
Those members include Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who have both worked on legislation to combat sexual assault in the military.
Ernst declined to comment through a spokesman. Fischer declined to discuss the specifics of the allegations but said the Air Force investigation was thorough and resulted in no charges.
“I have had a great working relationship with Gen. Hyten,” she said. “He is a committed, capable man. He has given years of service to this country.”
The woman who made the allegations said she is willing to testify under oath to the committee, preferably in a closed-door session.
She remains in the military but has moved to a different job.
“My life was ruined by this,” she told the AP.
The woman asked to not be identified by name. The AP generally does not identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., previously served on the Armed Services Committee but left the panel in order to join the Intelligence Committee. Sasse said he hadn’t heard of the allegations when asked about them Thursday morning.
Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have raised questions about whether Hyten received special treatment because of his high rank.
In an interview, Duckworth agreed with Fischer that the Air Force investigation was thorough and professional but questioned why Hyten was allowed to remain in his position in the interim.
Duckworth said other military officials have been removed from duties when facing such allegations.
“I do think that he’s been treated differently than other officers who have had similar allegations,” she said.
Duckworth also said members of the committee need to hear from the accuser before deciding on the nomination.
“When we have issues of sexual assault, especially in the military, that the alleged victim deserves her time to tell her story before we make decisions,” she said.
Duckworth said she has not spoken with the accuser personally but has reviewed her allegations.
“I’ve read all of her allegations, and she’s a very believable witness,” she said.
The accuser began working for Hyten in November 2016, the month he became commander of StratCom.
She said the unwanted sexual contact, kissing and hugging began in early 2017 and recurred several times that year when she was working closely with Hyten. She said she repeatedly pushed him away and told him to stop.
In December 2017, when they were in California for the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, Hyten came into her room wearing workout clothes and hugged her tightly and rubbed up against her, the woman says.
She said she didn’t report the incidents at the time in order to avoid embarrassment and out of fear of retaliation. She was also thinking about retiring and believed that Hyten was as well, so she concluded that he would not pose a risk to any other service members.
She later learned that she was under investigation for what officials said was “toxic” leadership behavior.
That allegation surprised her, she said, because Hyten was familiar with her leadership style and “encouraged” it. He had given her glowing performance reviews, some of which were reviewed by the AP.
“Exceptionally competent and committed leader with the highest level of character,” Hyten wrote, adding that “her ethics are above reproach.”
It remains to be seen whether Hyten will press forward or withdraw his name from consideration.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that senators are still reviewing the information available and that no hearings are scheduled at this time.
Inhofe declined to say how the allegations will affect the nomination but did point to the Air Force investigation.
And while not commenting on the allegations against Hyten, Fischer rejected a suggestion that the four-star general had been handled with kid gloves because of his high rank.
“I specifically asked the question, ‘Was there preferential treatment given to Gen. Hyten at any time during this investigation?’ and there was not,” Fischer said.
This report includes material from the Washington Post and the Associated Press.
1 of 123
Water covers a road near Valley, Nebraska, on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Heavy machinery stacks up concrete chunks on the shore of the Elkhorn River at the Q Street bridge as part of an effort to stabilize the bank on the recently flooded river.
Sarpy County Sheriff's Deputy Darin Morrissey rides an ATV through floodwaters in Hawaiian Village.
Omaha Roncalli's Shane Orr celebrates their double overtime win over Aurora during a semifinal game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Auburn bench and crowd react to Auburn's Cameron Binder hitting what would be the game winning shot against North Bend Central during the championship game in the Class C1 Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Creighton's Jordan Hovey (5), right, celebrates hitting a home run with his teammates in the 2nd inning.
Nebraskaâ€™s Adrian Martinez runs out of the end zone after a play during spring football practice at the Hawks Championship Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Treyton Gubser, left, and his uncle Daniel Gubser paddle using shovels through the floodwaters after they rescued Daniel's kid's cat, Bob, in Hamburg, Iowa.
Highway 81 is covered in floodwaters south of Columbus, Nebraska.
A Nebraska National Guard helicopter flies over a flooded Waterloo, Nebraska, in March.
Cars drive drive across a flooded Platte River on Highway 50 just north of Louisville, Nebraska.
A Canada goose flies over Matthew J. Placzek's "Monument to Labor" sculpture as floodwaters from the Missouri River begin to recede on the Omaha riverfront.
Floodwaters closed Ave I at North 26th Street in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
A truck drives through a flooded road near the Platte River in April.
Lincoln Pius X's Austin Jablonski holds up the net after his team defeated Omaha Roncalli in the championship game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Amelia Fritz, right, holds on to her daughter-in-law Tesha Fritz in Glenwood, Iowa. They were evacuated from Pacific Junction, Iowa, after floodwaters hit the town last night. They were part of 15-relatives all staying in the same house or in a camper in the front driveway.
Robert Jones looks around his flood damaged house north of Highway 50, near Louisville,Nebraska. The floor, which is normally a white tile, is covered in mud.
Aurora's Nicholas Hutsell, left, fouls Omaha Roncalli's Alexander Rodgers during a semifinal game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Lincoln Pius X's Charlie Easley, left, and and Omaha Roncalli's Alexander Rodgers stretch for a loose ball during the championship game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family's Trent Reardon, left and Jason Sjuts celebrate their victory over Fremont Bergan during the championship game in the Class D1 Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Aurora's Kaleb Moural wipes the sweat from his face during the second half against Omaha Roncalli during a semifinal game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Bob the cat looks on from a basket in a boat after being rescued from floodwaters in Hamburg, Iowa.
A vehicle is stuck in floodwaters near 1st Street and Pierce Street in Fremont, Nebraska.
Tim Rockford, left, and David Bauer, tour the Bellwood Lakes neighborhood which was destroyed by the flooding days prior along the Platte River in Bellwood, Nebraska.
Lincoln East's Charlotte Bovaird practices her shot and she and her teammates warm up in the hallways before the start of the game. Lincoln East played Millard South in a Class A first-round basketball game during the girls state basketball tournament at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Elkhorn South's Ryee Gray (40) fights for a rebound with Sidney's Meaghan Ross (0).Sidney played Elkhorn South in a Class B first-round basketball game during the girls state basketball tournament at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Elkhorn South defeated Sidney 51-37.
Westside poses with the championship plaque with the winning score on the wall behind them after Omaha Westside defeated Millard North 54-53 at Omaha Westside in Omaha, Nebraska.
Chris Saenz of Bellevue works out at FIT IN THE CITY in Papillion, Nebraska.
Dymond Meeks leaps across the snow pile in the center of Farnam Street near its intersection with 14th Street in Omaha, Nebraska, as she makes her way to work. Meeks said the snow was terrible. She said it took her 15 minutes to get down the hill her home is located on.
Hazley Eulberg, 10, of Kennard, Nebraska, takes in the trophy display in the Whitetail Kings Collection booth at the Omaha International Boat Sports and Travel Show at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
The house-made carrot cake is one of the many desserts on the menu at J. Gilbertâ€™s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood in Omahaâ€™s Capitol District.
UNO's Mitch Hahn (44), right, grabs a rebound over the top of teammate JT Gibson (0). UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Norfolk's Annika Harthoorn dives backwards at the start of heat 4 of the girls 100 yard backstroke at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the state swimming prelims.
UNO's Mitch Hahn (44) hugs his mom Kim Hahn following UNO's 85-84 win over South Dakota State. UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Lincoln Pius X's Katie Stonehocker competes in the girls 200 yard freestyle at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the state swimming prelims.
Jen Freeman, who is training for a 100 mile race, jogs through the snow in Millard, Nebraska. Freeman said that she has to train no matter what the weather.
Mesquite grilled eight-ounce filet with heirloom carrots and burnt end mac and cheese. J. Gilbertâ€™s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood serves dinner seven nights a week in Omahaâ€™s Capitol District.
UNO's Matt Pile (40) gets tangled with Western Illinois' Zion Young (1), left and Brandon Gilbeck (52) in the first half as the University of Nebraska at Omaha hosts Western Illinois at the Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Omaha Burke assistant wrestling coach Jesse Peters takes a rest before the start of the semifinals at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, during the Nebraska State Wrestling Tournament. Peters said the nap helps him get through the long tournament days.
South Dakota State's Mike Daum (24) scores a basket against UNO. UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
UNO's Ayo Akinwole (10) drives past Western Illinois' Keshon Montague (22) in the first half as the University of Nebraska at Omaha hosts Western Illinois at the Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Creamed corn with bacon is among many side items on the menu at J. Gilbertâ€™s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood in Omahaâ€™s Capitol District.
The UNO basketball team celebrates their 85-84 win over South Dakota State. UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
UNO's KJ Robinson (5) reacts after missing a shot. UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Omaha Bryan's Ladamien Sturdivant, left, tries to keep a hold on Fremont's Cody Carlson during their Class A 126 pound semifinals wrestling match at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, during the Nebraska State Wrestling Tournament.
Lincoln Pius X's Kara Owens rises from the water as she competes in heat 2 of the girls 100 yard backstroke at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the state swimming prelims.
Hilary Sehring punches the speed bag during an exercise round at 9Round Fitness in Omaha, Nebraska.
Gothenburg's wrestling coach Tom Scott cheers on Gothenburg's Wyatt Hotz as he takes on Lexington's Brady Fago during their 132 pound semifinals wrestling match at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, during the Nebraska State Wrestling Tournament.
Seventh-grade students from Nathan Hale Middle School are reflected in a â€œThe New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club,â€ a portrait by Rashid Johnson while touring 30 Americans, an exhibition from the Rubell Family Collection at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The traveling exhibit of 30 African American artists includes art with themes of slavery, the KKK and an emphasis on the beauty of black lives.
A man clears the snow from the top of a parking garage located near 10th and Jackson Streets in Omaha, Nebraska, after heavy snowfall.
UNO's Zach Jackson (21) delivers a slam dunk as teammate Ayo Akinwole (10) expresses his approval in the second half as the University of Nebraska at Omaha beats Western Illinois 77-63 at the Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Fremont assistant coach Cydney Granger cheers on Fremont swimmer Lauren Gifford in the girls 500 yard freestyle at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the state swimming prelims.
A pedestrian cruises past a sign of seasons to come in the window of Palm Beach Tan, 5417 S. 96th Street in Omaha, Nebraska.
UNO's Ayo Akinwole (10), left, drives around South Dakota State's David Jenkins (5). UNO played South Dakota State in a men's basketball game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Jim Stotts, of Glenwood, Iowa, walks a few laps around Stinson Park while passing time before going to see a movie at Aksarben Cinema, in Omaha, Nebraska.
Chris Kotulak, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Fonner Park, demonstrates how to play a PariMAX's historical horse racing game at the Fonner Park executive offices in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Western Michigan's Ethen Frank (26), Lawton Courtnall (10), and Hugh McGing (16) celebrate a goal during the second period of a college hockey game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
People jog through the snow at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.
Gage Beins, right, dumps snow on his friend Jeremy Boyd as they goof around in the snow at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.
Jamie Kotera, 59, of Springfield, Nebraska, who works out five times a week is seen during her strength training workout with personal trainer Tyler Kottas at Better Bodies Fitness in Omaha, Nebraska.
A deer forages for food at Chalco Hills Recreation Area in Omaha, Nebraska, as snow falls.
A red-tailed hawk stands in the grass near 144th Steet and Giles Road in Omaha, Nebraska. He soon took off again as the light changed and traffic began to move.
Intern Daniel Holm, left, works with stage manager Amy Thomas backstage. The two were keeping track of the play as it progressed to know when they needed to make scene changes. Cast members were rehearsing "The Hobbit" at the Circle Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska.
The kimchi ramen at Ika San, new in the Old Market, includes the restaurant's signature crispy pork belly and rich pork broth, plus house-made kimchi, which is fermented cabbage.
Tom Dahir clears the snow from his driveway in Omaha, Nebraska, near the intersection of 97th Street and W. Center Road after a heavy snowfall.
UNO's Zach Jordan (27) and Western Michigan's Cam Lee (28) battle for the puck during the first period of a college hockey game at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Actor Patrick Brusnahan does his makeup before the start of rehearsal. Brusnahan played the dwarf Bombur. Cast members were rehearsing "The Hobbit" at the Circle Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska.
Diederick Dillon, an Omaha Burke junior, clears snow from his car in the school's parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha Public Schools were let out early because of the weather. Dillion said he was headed straight to work, despite being let out of school early.