February 17, 1995 in Nation/World

Lowry Apologizes, But Denies Reports Governor Appears On TV To Address Allegations Of Harassment, Drinking

Associated Press
 
Tags:ethics

Gov. Mike Lowry, flanked by his wife and trying to face down allegations of sexual harassment, issued a televised apology Thursday night to anyone who may have been offended, and conceded he might have had a drinking problem a decade ago.

But in the live interview with KIRO-TV, Lowry insisted he has “never, ever done anything that was ever meant to make anybody feel uncomfortable” and said he has put his heavy drinking days behind him.

Lowry is being investigated by a sexual harassment expert in the second allegation of harassment in less than a year.

In addition, a longtime Lowry aide said two key staff members quit his 1992 gubernatorial race because of concerns about his drinking on the campaign trail, The SpokesmanReview reported Wednesday.

Susanne Albright, Lowry’s former deputy press secretary, has alleged the governor sexually harassed her, but has not given any specific information, nor filed any claim or legal action. Lowry flatly denies the allegation.

The earlier allegation, by a State Patrol employee, could not be corroborated by investigators.

“I have learned that some people are uncomfortable,” Lowry said Thursday. “I feel bad about that. I don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable with me. Whoever that might be, anybody I have ever made feel uncomfortable, I apologize to.”

Albright’s attorney, Larry Finegold, said in an interview with The Associated Press that, “I thought Gov. Lowry apologized and grudgingly acknowledged that he inappropriately engaged in improper behavior toward Susanne Albright and other unnamed women.

“For a man who initially claimed he was `stunned,’ it is quite a concession. We are pleased to hear that today he is taking a first step. However, grudging recognition of a problem is only a first step and requires as a next step personal participation in a program designed by an expert which will allow the governor to come to a fuller understanding of the effects his conduct has on him and people who work around him.

“I think the governor was genuinely trying to signal that he recognizes he engaged in inappropriate behavior to my client and others.”

He said Albright hasn’t decided whether to cooperate with an investigation, file a lawsuit or go public with her specific allegations.

Lowry addressed both the rumors of heavy drinking and sexual impropriety.

In a Tuesday interview with The Spokesman-Review, Lowry was asked about longtime aide Don Wogamott’s statement that campaign workers were worried about Lowry’s drinking during the 1992 race.

The governor contended the aides were actually concerned only about outside rumors of his drinking. He denied drinking inappropriately during the campaign.

On Thursday, he volunteered that he had decided about 10 years ago that he might be drinking too much and cut back.

“I have no drinking problem,” he said. “How could I have been so successful in the (1992) campaign? There have been times in my life, a long time ago, when I said, `Hey, Mike, I wonder if you’re drinking too much?’ I put that behind me. I handled that. I just moved away from that, moderated that.”

He said he never sought professional help.

Mary Lowry said Lowry’s gregarious, boisterous nature may have left the misimpression that he was drunk at times.

“Mike is a very outgoing person, emotionally expressive. He shows his feelings. He can be happy and talking loud and if he has a glass of wine in his hand and there are people standing around, I can see how he would be perceived differently.”

The couple were interviewed at their Renton home by KIRO anchor Margaret Larson. The 15-minute segment was reminiscent of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s “60 Minutes” interview during the 1992 campaign when the nominee was accused of having a longstanding affair.

The governor and his wife said the faithfulness question asked earlier this week by a reporter at the Capitol was inappropriate, but said they were happy to tell people they have kept their marriage vows.

Olympia police reported seeing the governor with a woman other than his wife in a parked car near a tavern two years ago. Lowry said Thursday night he was on his way to “get a hamburger with a longtime platonic friend. There was nothing there.”

Mary Lowry, who rubbed her husband’s back and shoulders and frequently smiled at him, said the other woman in the car was “a friend of both of ours. It’s funny someone would try to make something out of this.”

She called the fidelity question an invasion of privacy.

“What if they have been unfaithful - how would that make the person feel?” she said. “What if the couple had the decision that it was OK? We don’t. We believe in fidelity. But you don’t know what goes on between two people. You don’t know what the relationship is like. We don’t have that sort of (open marriage) agreement. I would be upset and so would Mike if that happened.”

Said Lowry: “I think most people think that question goes beyond the pale. I answered it correctly. That was a very easy question to answer. I was more thinking, `My gosh, why would somebody ask that kind of a question?”’

Without saying whom she was referring to, Mary Lowry excoriated people who spread rumors. She said the rumors take on a life of their own and do damage before the allegations are checked out with the governor or are investigated.

“What is going on in people’s lives?” she asked. “What is missing in their own life that they want to start this negativity about someone else, rather than being kind?”

The governor seemed to pin some of the sexual harassment woes on being too friendly.

“I want people to think they can come up,” he said. “I don’t want people to think they have an aloof governor, standoffish.”

Mary Lowry said she is “trying to be very supportive, trying to talk about positive things, to keep his spirits up, although he’s doing great, and just keep it in perspective that this is kind of the bad side of politics.”

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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