Bob Filner: America's Most Lecherous Mayor?

4 years ago

Bob Filner makes Anthony Weiner look like an amateur. San Diego's Democratic mayor even won Conan O'Brien's "Perv-Off" and broke The Daily Show's "Eww-O-Meter."

The scandals unfolding about the serial misogynist casts an ugly shadow over the city that will eventually leave behind a sick legacy plagued by lawsuits filed by a sexual harrassment accuser and the City of San Diego, a bevy of sexual battery charges, plus an FBI investigation into a pay-to-play scheme with a developer and campaign donor.


L-R, Irene McCormack, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, Attorney Gloria Allred, Image Credit: U-T San Diego/Zumapress,


Today, the list of women who have come forward with graphic tales of his unwanted sexual advances grew to nine. Most of the list reads like a Who's Who in San Diego politics - from a long beloved former reporter and public affairs communicator to a Democratic campaign manager to a retired rear-admiral to a college district executive.

In spite of the vociferous public disgust, outcry and recall efforts, the 70-year-old lets it all defiantly tumble off his crusty, old back. His delusional message seems clear enough: I'll leave office when you pry it from my dead, cold hands.

Filner's combo of political apetite and sexual perversions may go back many years. One accuser unveiled an eight-year-old email detailing his public rump groping of her behind at an event to his Congressional Chief of Staff Tony Buckles. Despite these disclosures, Democrats willfully looked the other way in trade for his loyal vote and quickly hushed up any notions of putting obstacles in his way due to these complaints.

Usher in the Age of Irene McCormack Jackson. In just six short months as his mayoral communications director, the well-respected 57-year-old professional had enough. With famed attorney Gloria Allred by her side, Ms. McCormack Jackson made her allegations of sexual harassment public, opening the door for other women who, like her, were professionals fearing retribution from Filner.

Here's a snippet from her lawsuit relaying just one story:

"You know you are beautiful. I have always loved you. Someday I know that you are going to marry me. I am so in love with you. Wouldn't it be great if you took off your panties and worked without them on?" When McCormack Jackson pushed Filner away, he said: "C'mon. Give me a kiss," the lawsuit alleges.

What's followed has been a national media frenzy with every new detail or accuser further spinnning the public into a tizzy fueled by anger and self-loathing. The outrageous depths of his defiance and willful disregard for the public good seem unimaginable for any longtime public official.

Many notable Democrats called on Filner to step down - including Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the San Diego Democratic Party Central Committee (though a first vote was split) and nearly every elected official in San Diego County.

"The misconduct Mayor Bob Filner has been accused of is reprehensible and indefensible. I am personally offended by his actions and I firmly believe no employee should face a hostile environment or harassment at their place of employment. There is no place for this type of conduct in the workplace and certainly not in our city halls and public offices. For the good of the City of San Diego, I call on Mayor Filner to resign." - Debbie Wasserman Schultz

In the face of similar calls for his ouster, he opted for two weeks of rehab. Then, without a whiff of irony, he asked the San Diego taxpayers to foot the bill for his legal fees in defending his sexual harassment suit while perhaps most galling, declaring he'll be vindicated. Filner's lawyer even went so far as to blame the City of San Diego for failing to provide the mayor with sexual harassment training.

Rasputin had more political sense.

Though, like the alleged mystic, Filner still has some supporters including organized labor and a few rogue Democrats, including San Diego Councilwomen Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald.

Hard to imagine anyone might rush to his defense. At least we have comics, like Stephen Colbert, to lighten the mood.

With so many reasons to despise him, it's hard to choose just one. But arguably, the top reason: his enjoyment of forcing unwanted sexual advances on women using his public offices to engage in his compulsion. The more graphic accounts note a lot of slobbery tongue, groping outside and inside clothes and even the afortamentioned perverted requests to work sans panties. To add insult to injury, he committed many of these foul acts while married or engaged.

Arguably, his election to San Diego Mayor led to his undoing. It's a far more scrutinized role in terms of public oversight and media coverage than being one of 435 votes, especially for so unremarkable a congressman.

So naturally, folks wonder how long this behavior - both the payola schemes and sexual harassment - went on in Washington, D.C. Did it begin on Day One? Did it begin even earlier, when he served on the San Diego Unified School Board or San Diego City Council? What about when he taught history at San Diego State University?

My Analysis: The delusional ruler will not see the end of his first term. But just how soon his time in office ends remains to be seen.

  • The one good result: Filner's finally seen for the slimy snake that he is and perhaps has always been. His only future includes one where he's thinking on his sins for the rest of his days.
  • The overarching bad result (besides his mistreatment of many people): The public has a renewed reason to distrust politicians and the games played to get them in office.  No person gets elected without powerful friends and in this case, they made a deal with the Devil.

But ultimately, Filner's disgrace as an elected official and human being are his burden alone. He sought fame, and he has surely found it. History will record the Democrat as a failure, a cautionary tale for voters to cast a ballot wisely and a consciousness-raising for women everywhere to stand up for their equality no matter the man or his perceived power.

It's a filthy time in America's Finest City. Let's just hope sext pics do not surface.


Erica Holloway is a contributing editor for BlogHer. She runs a public relations and political consulting shop in San Diego and has no clients connected with Filner or any recall efforts. Follow her @erica_holloway.


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