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Friday, July 26, 2013

San Diego Mayor To Get Therapy Amid Scandal

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apologizes for his behavior in this frame from a video produced by the city of San Diego Thursday, July 11, 2013. (City of San Diego via AP)

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apologizes for his behavior in this frame from a video produced by the city of San Diego Thursday, July 11, 2013. (City of San Diego via AP)

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said Friday he will undergo therapy after less than a year in office amid allegations that he sexually harassed women.

Filner announced his plans after a series of women claimed he kissed, groped and placed them in headlocks.

Filner apologized to voters, his staff and the women he allegedly harassed, but added: “Words alone are not enough. I am responsible for my conduct. And I must take responsibly for my conduct.”

The allegations resulted in widespread calls for him to resign, plunging the nation’s eighth-largest city into political turmoil.

When the allegations surfaced, Filner apologized for disrespecting women and said he needed help. But soon after, he said he was innocent of sexual harassment and resisted calls to leave office.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee called on Filner to resign as did leaders of the San Diego Democratic party.

The former congressman was San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.

Filner’s own political party called for the leader of the nation’s eighth-largest city to resign as four more women identified themselves as targets of his sexual harassment, bringing to seven the number of women who have offered detailed accounts that include unwanted touching.

Guest

  • Tony Perry, San Diego bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. He tweets @LATsandiego.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Today, the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, called on the Democratic mayor of San Diego to step down. That follows calls for the resignation of Bob Filner from the San Diego Democratic Party. As of today, seven women have come forward alleging sexual harassment, including Filner's former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson.

IRENE MCCORMACK JACKSON: The past six months turned out to be the worst time of my entire working life. I was placed in the Filner and headlock and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear.

HOBSON: Well, joining us with the latest is Sandra Dirks, metro reporter at KPBS in San Diego. And Sandra, tell us about McCormack Jackson. She filed an 11-page lawsuit in San Diego Supreme Court. What does it say?

SANDRA DIRKS, BYLINE: Well, it had some pretty shocking allegations about a continued pattern of, basically, sexual harassment, of comments. One thing he said to her was you're so beautiful. I've always loved you. Someday I know you're going to marry me. And then he said wouldn't it be great if you took your underwear off and worked without them on. So really inappropriate comments, inappropriate touches. It just documents six months of alleged sexual harassment coming from the mayor.

HOBSON: And it wasn't just her. There were obviously a number of other women who have made accusations.

DIRKS: Every day this week brings with it another woman. And yesterday, four more very prominent members of the community came forward, including a dean at UCSD, the University of California San Diego, and a Navy rear admiral. So we are talking names that are incredibly familiar to people in the community.

And when they hear these claims coming from so many women, and so many women who really are sort of, you know, stalwart San Diegans, I think people are people are incredibly shocked by the bigger picture, the mosaic this paints of inappropriate comments, inappropriate touching.

And, you know, if this is true, this is an incredible lack of respect for women, and that is, you know, 50 percent of the electorate.

HOBSON: And pending the outcome of the lawsuit, the mayor is restricted from meeting alone with women at city facilities. How is he responding to all this?

DIRKS: Well, you know, there's been radio silence from the mayor. We have heard - the first response after anonymous allegations came out was a videotaped statement that he made, in which he said - you know, he admitted, he said I have not fully respected women, and I have intimidated them. He said I need help.

And he said that, you know, he was going to work to get the help he needed. Since then, really, there hasn't been a lot. He's put out press releases. His narrative sort of turned over to, you know, I deserve due process. These women should come forward. He said to a television station that he had a monster inside of him.

And now that the women have come forward, he has only said one thing, and that was on Monday, and again, he said, well, due process is going forward. But he is digging in and refuses to resign.

HOBSON: Well, for listeners who don't know anything about Bob Filner, he's got a long political history. He served five terms in Congress before he was elected mayor last year. Tell us a little bit more about him.

DIRKS: Well, you know, this is a progressive hero, in a lot of ways. I mean, he was - he was a freedom writer. He, you know, went down and marched in the civil rights movement. He was put in jail for two months in the South and refused to pay bail. I mean, he's a longtime leader of progressive movements and really seen by people as somebody who was going to change the establishment in San Diego, going to take it out of the hands of business and developers and move, you know, city politics into the neighborhoods, as opposed to just downtown.

So, in a lot of ways, he is this incredible figure, which is what makes these allegations and who they're coming from even more shocking.

HOBSON: Did he have any big accomplishments in the city before all this happened?

DIRKS: You know, he has done a few things. He's helped to - Balboa Park. He's helped to sort of preserve that park, that downtown space. He sort of helped to cut some spending, some waste that was going on down at City Hall. You know, he's only really been in office a little bit over half a month - half a year, six months.

He was really just recently elected. And it's been a pretty contentious, you know, mayorship, even before this scandal, because he is the first Democrat elected as mayor in San Diego in over 20 years.

HOBSON: And, by the way, he's got another scandal that he's dealing with.

DIRKS: He does, indeed. The feds are investigating him for possible corruption in a payout to a developer, so that they could be granted an easement. You know, this is kind of a different scandal. That was something that was really raised by a lot of Republicans. And there were a lot of complaints by Republicans in city council and in local politics against the mayor.

What makes this sexual harassment so sort of shocking isn't just the salacious details. It's also that the people who are calling for him to resign, those that are really, you know, talking up against him are fellow progressives and Democrats, the same people who helped to get him elected.

HOBSON: We'll have to see now if he intends to hold on to the mayor's office with all these calls, including the one today from the head of DNC, that he step down. Sandra Dirks of KPBS in San Diego, thank you so much for talking with us.

DIRKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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