PORTLAND, Ore. — One of 10 women making allegations against Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) said Saturday she was pressured last spring by a friend of the senator to remain silent about allegations of unwanted sexual advances.
Julie Williamson said that in a Saturday night phone call last May, Ann Elias told her that "if this became public, an effort would be made to find things in my life that would be embarrassing."
"It felt like a cold ice cube going down my back," Williamson said of the alleged call from Elias.
Elias is a friend of Packwood and her husband, James, ran Packwood's 1968 Senate campaign. Ann Elias declined to comment about Williamson's account but confirmed in a newspaper interview a week ago that the phone call took place.
The call came two months after a columnist for the Oregonian, a Portland newspaper, printed an account of a purported sexual overture Packwood made to Williamson in 1969--without using the names of the alleged participants.
Williamson said she was the source for the columnist's account. Williamson, now a Democratic political consultant, worked a decade ago for Rep. Les AuCoin (D-Ore.), whom Packwood narrowly defeated in a Nov. 3 Senate race.
Williamson says she confided to Ann Elias in 1969 that Packwood had kissed Williamson on the back of the neck, grabbed at her clothes, pulled on her ponytail and, at one point, he stood on her toes as he struggled to take her clothes off. He gave up when she resisted, she said.
Williamson is one of 10 women who told the Washington Post that they were the victims of uninvited sexual advances by Packwood.
Ann Elias in recent weeks provided Packwood with a statement about Williamson that the senator gave to the Post, the newspaper reported.
Elias wrote that she believed Williamson had wanted a romantic relationship with Packwood, the Post said. The newspaper said Elias neglected to mention that Williamson came to her apartment, upset and agitated, to tell her about Packwood's conduct the day it occurred.
The alleged incident occurred in Packwood's Portland office while Williamson was a 29-year-old legal secretary for the senator.
Williamson said she and Ann Elias were friends who drifted apart and talked only once in the last eight years or so before Elias phoned.
Elias asked Williamson about the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Oregon before steering the conversation to the 1969 incident, Williamson said.
Elias asked if Williamson thought word of the incident would leak out before the general election, Williamson said. Williamson said she replied that she had "never made a secret of it."
Elias then asked if there were other women, Williamson said. Williamson said she knew of none at the time, but told Elias: "I can't talk about that."
She said Elias brought up personal matters. "And she said: 'You don't want to talk about that.' And I said: 'That's right.' "
Williamson declined to detail what Elias said, but characterized the call as "a warning or an attempt to indicate that they knew things about me I wouldn't want to see in print and that kind of business. If this incident became public, they would not hesitate to try and smear me."
Packwood said Friday that drinking may partially explain his alleged unwanted sexual advances involving 10 women. He promised to undergo tests for alcohol dependency and requested a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of the allegations.