Why Is Sexting More Scandalous than Sexual Harassment?

Aug 02, 2013 • Politically Erect, Politics, Scandal!

San Diego mayor Bob Filner accused of sexual harassment

You can’t go anywhere online without reading something about New York City’s mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner’s refusal to give up sexting even after it cost him his congressional seat. What you don’t see a third as often is that San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner, is currently being accused — by nine different women — of sexual harassment.

I suppose I should be encouraged that people find stories about a guy sexting with apparently consensual playmates more appealing than one about a guy who tells female employees to come to work without wearing panties.

Except I know that’s not really what’s going on here. I get it — you can’t really make jokes about sexual harassment without looking like a creep. With Weiner, it’s a goldmine of puns, pixelated cocks and LOLercoasters.

Well, tough shit. Today we’re going to talk about Bob Filner and what’s going down in San Diego.

In grand tradition, San Diego’s mayor refused to acknowledge any wrong-doing. During a press conference, he repeatedly implied that the accusations were bogus because his alleged victims had not followed due process and were (at the time) speaking out anonymously. It wasn’t until he was asked whether he believed that this was a maneuver concocted by political opponents that Filner offered the slightest hint of guilt.

“I brought this on through my own personal frailties,” he said. “The biggest monster right now is inside me. Which we will deal with. But obviously when you’re a mayor who’s trying to do change, people will take advantage of it. I think people will have to account for their own motivations in August. But I’m confident that at the end of the day, after a fair process, I will be vindicated.”

So he kind of sort of may have a thing for grabbing asses, but obviously that’s not the problem — the problem is people are being bullies and exploiting it because he’s a good guy who’s trying to change the world!

To date, nine women have stepped forward with charges of sexual harassment:

Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner’s former communications director, was the first — she has also filed a sexual harassment suit against Filner. Laura Fink, who’d worked for Filner when he was a congressman in 2005, said Filner once asked her to turn around so he could slap her ass. Morgan Rose, a psychologist working with a San Diego school district, said she too had been sexually harassed while the mayor was in congress. The Dean of San Diego State’s College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, Joyce Gattas, would soon join them when she described friendly greetings with Filner that invariably resulted into inappropriate touching. Local businesswoman Patti Roscoe has also came forward, saying Filner repeatedly put her head in a headlock and, on one occasion, slobbered on her chin. Ronne Froman, a retired Navy officer, said that the mayor once stroked her face inappropriately. Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, followed suit saying the mayor once grabbed her ass. San Diego City College administrator Lisa Curtin said Filner once cornered her after a meeting and tried to kiss her. Emily Gilbert, who was hired to sing at a fundraiser for Filner, most recently came forward, saying he pulled her close to him, tightly, and slid a hand down her back until he was able to cop a feel.

Attorney Marco Gonzales is representing an unnamed client in another sexual harassment suit against Filner, the details of which have not yet been disclosed. She would be the tenth person to come forward with claims of sexual harassment.

With one exception, there is zero anonymity around Filner’s accusers. In response to the developing scandal, several of San Diego’s City Council members, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein demanded that Filner resign. When he refused, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith stipulated that Filner ensure he is never left alone with a woman while on the job.

On the Rachel Maddow Show, Filner’s chief of staff, Lee Burdick, denied this move was discriminatory against women, saying the rule was “reasonable and prudent business practice” to ensure San Diego’s business is “done with the highest level of integrity.” So, basically, it makes more sense to Filner to deny women in the city access to their leader than it does to resign.

Wait, it gets better. Filner actually asked the City Council to pay the legal fees he’ll undoubtedly accumulate fighting Irene McCormack Jackson’s sexual harassment lawsuit. His lawyer argued that it was the city’s fault that any harassment had happened; you see, the city had never provided the mayor with state-required sexual harassment training.

In a response that appeared on the Los Angeles Times L.A. Now blog, Rebecca Abcarian gave voice to California’s annoyance:

All over San Diego, people are shaking their heads at the city’s epic failure. Obviously, this whole mess is the fault of the city, so it’s only fair that taxpayers should pony up.

How was a 70-year-old career politician who began serving in Congress in 1993 supposed to know that coming on to women, touching them, grabbing them, and forcibly kissing them was wrong? That such behavior could end or cast an irreducible shadow over even the most stellar political career?

No one told him! It’s not his fault!

Jan Goldsmith, who stated the City Attorney’s Office would not represent the mayor because it’s impossible to represent both Filner and the city, spoke against forcing San Diego to pay for Filner’s legal fees — advice the City Council took to heart. Filner was unanimously denied. According to the Los Angeles Times, they also agreed to sue the mayor to recover any damages leveled against the city as a result of the lawsuit.

San Diegans, meanwhile, have set two recall efforts into motion. Unfortunately, because the city’s municipal code regarding recalls is at odds with state law, the City Council would need to amend the code before this can happen and the City Council just recessed. If San Diego takes this route, they may be ringing in 2014 before they can vote.

Today was Filner’s last day at work for the next two weeks. On Monday, August 5, he’s entering a residential treatment center for fourteen days of reform therapy to hopefully get a sense of what it means to treat women with respect.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an automated telephone survey found 74 percent of respondents believe the allegations against Filner are true and 68 percent don’t think he can do his job if he can’t be trusted to be alone around women. Of those polled, 67 percent think he should resign and 60 percent think he should be recalled.

UPDATE: On Friday, August 23, the San Diego mayor tendered his resignation. As of that date, the women who have stepped forward with allegations of sexual harassment number 18.

Header image by Center for American Progress Action Fund.