Rep. Jim Bates apologized for what he called kidding and flirting with the women on his staff, but denied accusations that his behavior constituted sexual harassment.

"I think I've kidded around and flirted around," Bates, D-Calif., said Tuesday. "I don't know if you could call (them) advances. I think it was inappropriate. From now on, my behavior is going to be much more appropriate."Bates, 47, was accused in a weekly newspaper distributed largely on Capitol Hill in Washington of mistreating his female staff members by making suggestive comments with sexual overtones and hugging them.

The publication, The Roll Call, quoted women on Bates' staff, whose names were withheld at their request.