Packwood Shifts Course, Wants Hearings in Public

Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) announced on Friday that he now does want the Senate ethics committee to conduct public hearings on charges against him of sexual misconduct. Packwood had earlier requested, and the Senate voted 52-48 to allow, closed hearings — since then, however, two new allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced. There is speculation that Packwood’s sudden announcement seeking public hearings was aimed at forestalling another Senate vote, one that might reverse the earlier decision. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), who led the campaign for public hearings, said in an interview that Packwood might also use the hearings to badger his accusers, out of a belief that “The only way he can get a light sentence is to impugn the witnesses.” Boxer added, “Senator Packwood’s request…may seem surprising on the surface, but this was really his only choice given the rising tide of public opinion.”

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