Defense Secretary-designate John Tower on Wednesday denied allegations that he has a drinking problem, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee he is a "man of some discipline."
Conservative activist Paul Wey-rich said Tuesday that he had "on a number of occasions" seen Tower publicly inebriated and in the company of women other than his wife.But in a closed committee session this morning, Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., said Tower denied that he was a womanizer, had drinking problems or that past business ties with military contractors would hamper his work.
Tower later responded to the allegations in an open session. Asked by Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., the committee chairman, if he has a drinking problem, the nominee replied: "I have none. I'm a man of some discipline."
Tower said it is "essential that the secretary of defense be at all times capable of exercising the duties of the office."
In other confirmation proceedings Tuesday, the Senate approved the nomination of Robert Mosbacher as commerce secretary, Samuel Skinner as transportation secretary and Carla Hills as special trade representative. The vote was 100-0 on all three nominations.
Tower also was asked whether he would tolerate discrimination or sexual harassment of women in the Defense Department. He replied that he would have "zero tolerance" for such practices and that "professional women would be afforded the respect and deference they deserve."
He added that he does not envision seeing women in a combat role.
Nunn began the open session by reading a letter from C. Boyden Gray, the counsel who handled President Bush's transition, in which Gray denied that the office received letters "containing specific allegations of impropriety concerning Senator Tower."
Weyrich had testified that the office received letters questioning Tower's moral character but they had not been brought to the attention of the Armed Services Committee or Bush.
At the start of this morning's closed session, Tower was allowed to respond to Weyrich's allegations, Wallop said.
Tower "said that he does not feel that he has problems, as have been characterized by people upstairs (in open session) and personally feels himself to be a strongly disciplined man," he continued.
"I don't know of anybody who suspected that he did have a drinking problem. He stated his viewpoint that he did not," said Wallop.