We’re so used to politicians and bigwigs who refuse to take accountability for their behavior that when somebody does admit they did something wrong, it is kind of … weird.
Amidst allegations that he had groped numerous woman, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a Democrat, released a public apology on Thursday admitting there was some truth to sexual harassment allegations against him. Admitting “I need help,” the 70-year-old confessed in a DVD provided to the media that “I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior.” However, the mayor vehemently maintains he is not guilty of sexual harassment.
Numerous women he has allegedly sexually harassed, including constituents and a former employee, tell a different story.
The drama started last week when Filner’s fiancee sent an email to friends calling off their engagement. Several days later, three friends who had publicly supported Filner in the past — a former City Council member and two lawyers — sent letters to the mayor asking him to resign. One letter, as described by The Los Angeles Times, was written by former Councilwoman Donna Frye and mentioned “credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed by you. Despite past rumors, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt.” Frye’s letter continued:
However, those who have spoken to me recently would not make the allegations lightly or without cause, and I believe them. I cannot in good conscience remain silent…
Another letter proclaimed lost faith in Filner’s ability to control his behavior. The very next day, these three former friends held a press conference asking him publicly to resign.
Mayor Filner has not addressed specifics of the accusations against him. But in the DVD statement he provided to the media, Filner did confess: “I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.” Note that he only admitted to intimidation, whatever that means. Filner asked that the public give him a chance to change. He also said that he and his staff will undergo sexual harassment training offered by the city.
On Monday, former Councilwoman Frye held another press conference in which she read two statements from women, who are San Diego constituents and alleged victims of sexual harassment by Mayor Filner. Both women said Filner had tried to forcibly kiss them; one of the women also said Filner put his hand “on the inside of her bra.” (Um, ew.) On top of all this, a female staff member has accused Filner of grabbing her breasts and butt. (Ew ew ew ew ew.) His former friends shared how City Hall employees had a joke about “The Filner Dance,” which is the way they would all dance around having physical contact with him, and “The Filner Headlock,” which is the way he’d wrap his arm around young women’s necks. He reportedly had a reputation as a “dirty old man” — and it’s not hard to see why.
Also on Monday, Filner’s former fiancee released a public statement of her own in which she affirmed general accusations of his inappropriate behavior, though she said she had no knowledge whether any of the sexual harassment allegations against him were true. Bronwyn Ingram said in a statement:
While I had heard rumors that he was engaging in sexual relationships with other women, I was never able to determine their validity. However, as Bob’s behavior continued to become more aggressive, standard decorum seemed to disappear. Bob recently began texting other women sexually explicit messages and setting up dates while in my presence and within my line of vision.
All of this forced Mayor Filner to release yet another statement, also on Monday, in which he claimed he was being unfairly treated and denied that any of his behavior was “sexual harassment”:
I’m not going to resign, and here’s why. As your elected mayor, I fully expect to be accountable to the citizens of San Diego for all of my actions. But as a citizen of this country, I also expect – and am entitled to – due process, and the opportunity to respond in a fair and impartial venue to specific allegations. I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment, and I believe a full presentation of the facts will vindicate me.
Hmmmphh. I am not a legal scholar, but I suspect Mayor Filner has admitted to intimidation, but not sexual harassment, because “intimidation” in the workplace environment is such a nebulously defined concept that it is far less likely to come with criminal charges. He’ll have a hard time defending his behavior as “intimidation,” though, when his victims do file formal charges. And of course the accusations of sexual harassment should be formally handled in a court of law. Such formal charges are be expected to be filed soon, according to Filner’s former friends.
But that’s almost besides the point regarding whether he should keep his job. Mayor Filner already publicly admitted to inappropriate behavior with women, even if he has denied the illegality of it, and that’s enough to warrant his immediate resignation or be forced out of office. A mayor who has allegedly sexually harassed at least two of his own constituents, to say nothing of his own employee — and has admitted to behaving inappropriately — has no business remaining in a position of power. It’s almost laughable that he thinks otherwise.
Filner publicly admitted he needs help. He should go get it.
[Photo via Getty]