S.D. mayor takes sex scandal to new level

Published 8:50 am Friday, August 16, 2013

Column: Independent’s Eye, by Joe Gandelman

The tourist Mecca of San Diego has long been loved for the gleaming beaches along its 70-mile coastline where the sea caresses the sand. Now it’s becoming known as the city where its mayor allegedly gave unwanted caresses, butt pats and playful chokeholds to more than a dozen women.

Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman

Every day the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper boasts: “The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City.” These days San Diego is becoming known as America’s city with a mayor who refuses to resign even though he’s caught up in one of the country’s worst sex scandals.

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San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s latest refusal to resign was coated with political gobbledygook: “Now is not the time to go backwards — back to the time middle-class jobs and neighborhood infrastructure were sacrificed to downtown special interests,” he said in a written statement required by law to the committee trying to recall him. “We need to continue to move forward.”

Make no mistake about it: the 70-year-old Filner, once upon a time a progressive Democratic member of the House known to deliver and fight hard for his supporters and causes, is now arguably the worst of America’s high-profile Three Stooges of sex scandals.

Former Rep. Anthony “Stop Me Before I Sext Again” Weiner is continuing his magical mystery humiliation tour as he campaigns to become New York City mayor, definitively done in by revelations that he was “sexting” after he claimed he had stopped. Plus, he’s highly obnoxious and wears as well as a nonstop migraine.

Watching videos of Weiner mocking a British reporter, blasting the media, answering outraged constituents who take him to task, or calling a 69-year-old rival in the mayor’s race “grandpa” at an AARP event reveals less of a run for mayor than a public meltdown. Weiner’s sexting and his embarrassing, nearly masochistic, run reflect a huge out-of-control ego.

Former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, who quit his office after it was revealed he was offering his own extensive stimulus package to New York’s prostitute industry, seems to be on the rebound after flopping as a CNN talk show co-host. Polls show he could well win in his race to become New York City comptroller and rejoin the ranks of elected politicians — those who often do in office to voters what prostitutes do to their clients.

But Filner is increasingly in a sleazy category by himself. The accusations fall under the blanket category of “sexual harassment” but they aren’t just about words or an isolated action. Attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Filner’s highly respected former communications director Irene McCormick Jackson in a lawsuit, is having prominent women come forward virtually every week.

Filner reportedly approached women at a meeting for women raped in the military. One nurse felt he was demanding she go out on a date with her if she wanted his help in treating a wounded veteran patient. Filner has been accused of groping and trying to kiss women and getting several in a supposedly playful dominating “Filner headlock.” New revelations are coupled with reports that Filner wasn’t much better while in Congress.

Perhaps the best advice to San Diego women might be: if Bob Filner asks you what you want for Christmas, don’t say “Christmas goose.”

Filner insists his actions weren’t sexual harassment and refuses to quit. He can’t be fired by the City Council and the recall effort’s success isn’t certain. He proclaimed he was going away for two weeks of harassment therapy, then came back at the end of a week announcing he’d completed it early. Meanwhile, comedians are having a field day, and a You Tube video parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” centers on calls for him to resign. And it’s getting worse for him.

All Hooters restaurants in San Diego have put up a poster — text and design suggested by Glenn Beck — saying they won’t serve Filner.

And Talking Points Memo reports “ investigators are looking into claims by Filner’s security detail that Filner frequently took women to the Westgate hotel in downtown San Diego … In any case, it may all be too much for Filner’s one week of harassment therapy to overcome.”

Or would it? Many politicians are shameless. But Bob Filner almost makes Anthony Weiner look contrite and in control.


Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States.