July 30 (UPI) -- Air Force Gen. John Hyten on Tuesday denied accusations he forcibly kissed a female colonel and pressed himself against her, charges that have drawn controversy for his nomination to be President Donald Trump's vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Hyten told a hearing of the Senate armed services committee nothing inappropriate happened and that investigators came to the same conclusion.
"It's 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," Hyten said.
The accuser, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, said the Air Force general damaged her career, as she was his aide when she says the advances were made. She said promoting him to vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs would deter future sexual assault victims from reporting abuse by a high-ranking officer.
"Even if the investigators determine that there was no evidence to show that the victim was lying ... no one will believe her anyway, so why even bother reporting," she said.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson authorized an investigation and said its 1,400-page report cleared Hyten.
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a retired Air Force pilot who said she was sexually assaulted in the past, said she reviewed the evidence and determined Hyten didn't assault the woman.
"It just didn't happen in this case," she said.
The Senate committee reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed 50 witnesses in closed session.
"Addressing these allegations is critical ... for every nominee going forward," Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said. "This committee takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously -- it is unacceptable. "
Former chief Air Force prosecutor Don Christensen -- head of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for victims of military sexual assault -- said there's no evidence Spletstoser made up her story, and accused the Air Force of mounting a campaign to smear her.