Weeks after USA Today broke the story about a married two-star general’s months-long text exchange with a subordinate’s wife, bizarre new details have emerged around the story.
The officer, Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, was suspended from his post as the commander of U.S. Army Africa on Sept. 1 amid an Army Inspector General investigation into a series of flirtatious, and at times sexually suggestive, texts that he sent to the young wife of an enlisted soldier under his command. Stars and Stripes provided an account of some of those exchanges after speaking to the woman, under the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals toward her husband.
The messages, sent mostly late at night, were sometimes innocuous; other times they were more suggestive, like this gem from Harrington to the woman: “You seem to have a great modeling resume! Truly! Though I hadn’t noticed! Where is your hubby tonight? Work?”
Even that message seemed subtle compared to some of the other texts:
- “U can be my nurse”
- “How often does your devil vixen come out?”
- After the woman mentioned she had a fight with her husband, Harrington texted back: “I’m sorry! Make up se…x is fun.”
Those communications began in February after the two met at the base gym in Vicenza, Italy, where U.S. Army Africa is headquartered. From there, the duo started messaging back and forth over their phones or on social media. Additional texts and accounts from the woman and her husband provide some additional context.
For starters, thousands of texts were leaked only after the woman became angry with Harrington for abruptly ending their friendship when his wife learned of the messages. “That did it. I felt betrayed. I felt used,” the woman told Stars and Stripes.
From there, she decided to tell her husband, explaining that she was angry Harrington had “slammed the door in my face. He wrote me like a jerk. Like I’m a child.
“So I did like him (and) I tell my husband,” she told Stars and Stripes. “And [my husband] wants to go punch him in the face.”
Instead of slugging an O-8 in the mouth, the woman and her enlisted spouse decided to reach out to Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for military victims of sexual assault and harassment for advice; after that, the pair went to the media, rather than rely on the Army alone to resolve the issue, Stars and Stripes reported.
Though both the woman and Harrington insist that the relationship never became physical — adultery is explicitly against military law — there are concerns that Harrington violated military codes of conduct, chiefly the general rule of thumb that you shouldn’t flirt with your subordinate’s wife.
The scandal is just the latest in a string of harassment or misconduct allegations against high-ranking military officials — from allegations of sexual misconduct at a Christmas party against Cmdr. Chris Servello, who was recently reassigned from his job as the spokesman for the Chief of Naval Operations, to the “swinging general,” Army Maj. Gen. David Haight, who suffered a three-rank demotion and was forced to retire as a lieutenant colonel after his his 11-year affair with a government contractor came to light. The list goes on, and on, and on.
Though Harrington has been mum on the affair, the woman said she has mixed feelings about her decision. “I am not innocent completely. Maybe I am wrong to reply,” she told Stars and Stripes. “But I am not a general.”
As for the husband, he’s a bit less forgiving.