A top Pentagon official officially sexually harassed three women and created a hostile working environment, according to a report from the Pentagon Inspector General’s office published on Thursday. The official, Guy Roberts, the former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, resigned in April.
According to the report, Roberts made “inappropriate and offensive” jokes to his staffers; to his female employees, “he frequently hugged them, touched them, and made sexual comments.” The investigators found that Roberts “treated women on the...staff differently” and, for the three women he directly targeted, “created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment.”
After an initial complaint was made in late February, investigators talked to Roberts and 18 additional witnesses and reviewed 4,053 emails and documents. Their conclusions are that the allegation are “substantiated,” and that Roberts “engaged in a pattern of misconduct in which he sexually harassed women on his staff.”
The report comes during a time of reckoning for the Department of Defense as it attempts to curb a rising pattern of sexual harassment and assault against women in the military. Reports of sexual assaults rose in 2018, with 6.2% of enlisted women reporting. After these numbers were released in March, officials announced a number of programs, including a task force on sexual assault accountability, and a survivor oriented program, CATCH, which will provide legal support and counseling, to encourage enlistees to report.
Roberts, obviously, doesn’t agree with the investigator’s findings. When provided by the report’s initial conclusions, Roberts disagreed. “I am surprised and dismayed by the conclusions contained in the report; specifically, that I sexually harassed and inappropriately touched the three employees and others,” he wrote.
However, Roberts admitted that his jokes “were inappropriate,” adding, “I have been telling those jokes and funny incidents for over 30 years to audiences large and small. In today’s work place the fact that any one person would feel uncomfortable is enough to stop telling those kinds of jokes and I failed to appreciate that fact.”
The investigators took his comments under advisement, but wrote that his response “did not change our report and [they] stand by our conclusions.”