Watchdog Concludes Defense Appointee Sexually Harassed Employees
Guy Roberts, former assistant secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, hugged, touched and made sexual comments toward several women, the Pentagon inspector general found.
The Defense Department inspector general’s office announced Thursday that it has substantiated accusations that a former Trump appointee engaged in a “pattern” of sexual harassment of employees.
Defense Assistant Secretary for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs Guy Roberts resigned in April after the watchdog agency began its investigation. In a report Thursday, the inspector general said it found that Roberts “engaged in a pattern of misconduct” where he sexually harassed at least three women on his staff. Roberts has denied the most serious allegations.
The inspector general said that Roberts routinely treated women on his staff “differently,” and hugged, kissed or otherwise touched three employees in a sexual manner. He also repeatedly made sexual comments to multiple employees and made a number of off-color jokes.
“Mr. Roberts’ physical interaction and statements caused the three women to fear damage to their professional reputations and to fear being fired if they rejected his physical contact or complained about his behavior,” the report stated.
In the case of one employee, Roberts would repeatedly hug and kiss her when greeting or saying good-bye, despite requests to stop. He also once touched her thigh, and made a number of inappropriate comments like, “I love you” and saying he wanted to see her in a bikini.
A second employee reported repeated hugs, as well as multiple instances where Roberts touched her clothing, skin or necklace, in addition to “routine” comments about her appearance. A third employee said he repeatedly hugged her during business trips and at a happy hour.
The inspector general spoke to 18 witnesses and reviewed more than 4,000 emails and other documents. Although Roberts denied the most serious allegations—he admitted to making lewd “jokes”—investigators concluded that they did occur.
“We substantiated the allegations that Mr. Roberts engaged in a pattern of misconduct in which he sexually harassed women on the NCB staff,” the report stated. “Specifically, he frequently hugged them, touched them, and made sexual comments to them. In addition, he also made jokes that many found inappropriate and offensive and which caused employees to feel uncomfortable.”
Roberts admitted to making inappropriate jokes, but said he relied on staffers to tell him “about the appropriateness” of his actions. Employees, however, said they frequently told him that the comments were offensive and inappropriate.
In response to the inspector general’s conclusions, Roberts said he was “surprised and dismayed,” that he “categorically” rejected the first employee’s “version of events,” and that he was “surprised that her version of events gained credence over” his own. The inspector general noted that three other witnesses corroborated the employee’s statements.
“I thought a hug was a method of inclusion vice exclusion and was nevery [sic] intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” Roberts wrote. “I very much regret that my actions made them uncomfortable. No one indicated in any way that they objected to my actions nor did I sense anyone was intimidated by my rank and position.”
Since Roberts has already resigned from his position, the inspector general had no recommendations for the department, but forwarded the report for inclusion in Roberts’ personnel file.