Scandal-Ridden San Diego Mayor Urged To Step Down
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The mayor of San Diego has been besieged with calls to resign. That's in the wake of anonymous allegations of sexual harassment. Mayor Bob Filner has been saying he won't budge without due process. Now, he may finally have his day in court. A woman came forward yesterday and filed a lawsuit against Filner. Sandhya Dirks of member station KPBS brings us the latest. And just a quick warning: This story includes some graphic descriptions.
SANDHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: Irene McCormack Jackson paints a grim picture of life in the mayor's office.
IRENE MCCORMACK JACKSON: I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots.
DIRKS: The mayor's former communications director says she experienced daily shame and humiliation. And she says she wasn't just a victim; she was a witness.
JACKSON: I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women. I was placed in a Filner headlock and moved around as a ragdoll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear.
DIRKS: McCormack Jackson took a $50,000 pay cut to work for the mayor, and she did it because she was a believer. Filner has a history of progressive politics with 19 years as a Democrat in Congress. He was a Freedom Rider who championed the rights of the oppressed. But McCormack Jackson says behind closed doors, he was the oppressor and a man so out of touch with reality, he once asked her how he could have possibly been inappropriate.
JACKSON: I pointed out that he had asked me to work without my underwear on. He had no comeback.
DIRKS: That was the day she resigned. Yesterday, after she gave her statement in a small and stuffy room overflowing with reporters, she kept her eyes fixed on her lawyer, Gloria Allred, as if she was drawing strength from the woman who has made a career of taking on high-profile men engaged in anything from hanky-panky to outright sexual assault, like Tiger Woods and Roman Polanski. Allred spoke to the mayor directly, mocking him for missing sexual harassment scandals that had destroyed the careers of other politicians.
GLORIA ALLRED: Were you awake during any of those scandals?
DIRKS: And Allred chided the mayor for his first comments after the accusations emerged when, in a pre-taped statement, Filner looked into the camera and said I need help.
ALLRED: What help do you think that you need in order for you to stop treating women as pieces of meat?
DIRKS: Even with an alleged victim in the spotlight, the mayor says he's not going anywhere. Allies of the mayor are jumping ship. When asked about the man who once worked with her in Congress, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi snapped: Don't identify him as my former colleague. Now, the mayor has cloistered himself in his office, increasingly isolated as those who once saw him as a champion now view him as a monster. That's a term Filner himself as used in an interview with Univision San Diego.
MAYOR BOB FILNER: I brought this on through my own personal frailties. And the biggest monster right now is, you know, inside me - which we will deal with.
DIRKS: Filner's sporadic public comments veer between candid remarks just short of confession and confidence in his vindication. The only way the mayor can be forced out of office is with an expensive hard-to-file recall petition. A recall campaign is already gathering steam, but the mayor insists he is staying put. For NPR News, I'm Sandhya Dirks in San Diego.