Packwood Says He Was ‘Just Plain Wrong’ But Won’t Resign
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Bob Packwood said today he was wrong to pressure women employees and associates with unwelcome sexual advances but he will try to ″earn back your respect″ rather than resign.
″I’m not going to resign under any circumstances,″ Packwood told a news conference, his first public appearance since the allegations of sexual harassment surfaced more than two weeks ago.
″What I did was not just stupid or boorish,″ Packwood said. ″My actions were just plain wrong and there is no other better word for it.″
″I just didn’t get it. I do now,″ he added.
The 60-year-old Oregon Republican, who has just spent a week in an alcohol treatment and evaluation facility in Minnesota, said he does not believe he has a drinking problem. But he said he has stopped using alcohol and will seek further professional advice.
The five-term lawmaker said he owes an apology to the women who say he made unwelcome advances throughout his 24 years in the Senate. ″I would like to meet with them personally and apologize,″ he said.
When first confronted with the allegations, he said, ″I denied it to myself because I didn’t believe it,″ he said. ″I denied it to my friends.″
He refused to discuss the specifics of any of the allegations but indicated that with one exception he would not deny them.
Oregon Democrats and women’s groups have called for Packwood’s resignation. And some remained unmoved by his news conference remarks.
″He wouldn’t discuss the facts ... He still doesn’t get it,″ said Betty Roberts, who lost a 1974 Senate race to Packwood.
Holly Pruett, executive director of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, renewed complaints that Packwood has sought information to discredit his accusers. He declined to discuss those allegations.
″He refused to talk about the smear campaign and about attempts as late as last week to get embarrassing information about the women,″ Pruett said.
″As a woman, I don’t think anybody else has done a better job of helping women in this country,″ said Jeanette Slepian, a former Packwood staffer, among several who watched from a downtown Portland hotel.
Julie Williamson, a former aide who claimed he tried to pull her clothes off, said Packwood is still ″trying to deceive the people of Oregon ... the thing that made me particularly angry were his allegations that he didn’t remember the incidents.″
Mary Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Farm Bureau’s women’s advisory council, was supportive of Packwood.
″He said he is willing to apologize to the women personally,″ she said. ″I think he meant it.″
Diane Linn, executive director of Oregon’s National Abortion Rights Action League, said the group would not have endorsed him for reelection ″based on his statements today″ and other factors. It did endorse him in this year’s campaign against Democrat Les Aucoin.
Packwood said today he will cooperate with the Senate ethics committee, which has launched a preliminary inquiry into the allegations. But he added that he plans to remain in the Senate.
″I am here to take full responsibility for my conduct,″ Packwood said. ″I will not debate the recent accounts of my actions toward my staff and those who worked with my office. The important point is that my actions were unwelcome and insensitive. These women were offended, appropriately so, and I am truly sorry.″
Packwood said he has been a leading advocate of women’s rights and instrumental in moving women into congressional positions of authority and responsibility.
″I recognize now that my personal conduct has been at variance with these beliefs - not because my convictions are not genuine but because my conduct was not faithful to those convictions,″ he said.
″The bond of trust between us is stretched thin right now but I am committed to repairing that bond,″ he said. ″I ask for the chance to earn back your respect.″
″I pledge to restructure drastically and totally my attitude and my professional relationships,″ he added. ″If that requires professional counseling I will seek it. I guarantee that nothing like this will ever happen again.″
The Washington Post reported on Nov. 22 that 10 women were accusing him of making unwelcome sexual advances over his 24-year Senate career. Since the Post story appeared, five other women have made similar allegations.
Later, Tiffany Work, an accountant and mother of four, became the 16th woman to accuse Packwood of inappropriate behavior: fondling her buttocks in a 1973 incident. That allegation drew his first denial.
″This is an outrageous lie,″ Packwood said through aide Matt Evans. ″This whole thing has become ludicrous.″