RALEIGH — Rep. Cary Allred smelled of alcohol during a House session three weeks ago when he gave what one fellow Republican described as a "gruesome bear hug" to a teenage page working in the House chamber, several state lawmakers said in a report released Wednesday.
Many of the lawmakers said that Allred's extended hug was inappropriate, with one calling it the closest thing she had seen to sexual battery. Another House member said it was the most unsettling thing he had seen in his 11 years in the legislature. Several lawmakers said the 17-year-old girl seemed uncomfortable or embarrassed.
In the report, Rep. Thom Tillis, the House Republican whip, said he did not see the hug but smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Allred, who had been told by a fellow lawmaker to settle down. According to Tillis, Allred responded: "I am 62 years old, and I'm worth $2 million. People ought to show me respect."
Allred has defended his behavior and criticized the public release of the documents. He has called the allegations a political "witch hunt." But many of the eyewitness accounts were from his fellow Republicans who sit nearby in the chamber.
The accounts contrast sharply with Allred's explanation of his behavior. He says he had one cocktail before leaving for Raleigh and gave a grandfatherly hug to the girl, a neighbor and family friend. Allred did not attend the House session Wednesday. Reached at home, he said that the nine witnesses who described a prolonged hug and kiss were wrong or had misperceived the event. Some members said Allred kissed her on the cheek. Others said the kiss was on the mouth. Some said they saw only a hug.
"The eyewitnesses are looking through at the situation through dark-colored glasses with an evil mind," Allred said. "They're not looking at it through rose-colored glasses. They should have, because the page lives across the road from me and she's like my granddaughter."
Allred had sponsored the girl in the page program, in which teenagers spend a week at the legislature, passing out papers, taking attendance or helping lawmakers with various tasks.
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