Kennedy's Story of Her Assault: New Details of What a Woman General Told Friends about a Case of Abuse in the Pentagon
Vistica, Gregory, Newsweek
The briefing was over and Maj. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. Army, extended her hand to Brig. Gen. Larry Smith. Kennedy and Smith were alone in Kennedy's Pentagon office, although the door was open and Kennedy's assistant was sitting just outside. Smith ignored the proffered handshake and pulled Kennedy into his arms, holding her so tightly she couldn't move. Then he forcibly thrust his tongue into her mouth. Kennedy thought about kicking Smith between the legs, but didn't. She finally struggled free from Smith, so shocked and angry she was unable to speak. Smith turned on his heel and walked out. Shaken, Kennedy went to her bathroom and washed her mouth out several times. Then she went home and took a long shower, still furious at what she considered a case of sexual assault.
That at least is what Kennedy has told friends about the incident, which allegedly took place in 1996. Neither Kennedy nor Smith has spoken publicly about the incident, and both declined requests to tell their story for the record. Officially, the Army refuses to confirm or deny that Smith is under investigation, although sources say a probe will be completed soon. No one thinks the investigators will have an easy time substantiating Kennedy's allegations, which friends and colleagues related to NEWSWEEK for the first time. Despite published reports that she complained about the incident at the time, Pentagon sources say they are now sure she never lodged a formal complaint. "It's a 'he said, she said' sort of thing," said a woman officer who is Kennedy's friend.
One key reason she didn't report it, friends say, is that Kennedy did not want to embarrass the Army. Kennedy knew plenty about the Army's woman problem. She served on a high-profile Army panel on sexual harassment, and in press reports before the incident, she said she'd experienced sexual harassment several times in her career. Still, Kennedy was reluctant to file formal charges against Smith. "I dealt with it," she told friends later. "It never happened again."
Then last August Smith was picked to become the Army's deputy inspector general, a post in which he would have supervised investigations of sexual-harassment complaints. …