San Diego Mayor Headed To Treatment After Harassment Claims
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. San Diego's mayor, Democrat Bob Filner, says he'll step away from his duties and go into two weeks of treatment next month. Numerous women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Mayor Filner made the announcement earlier today.
MAYOR BOB FILNER: The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact I engage in at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life working on.
SIEGEL: The Democratic National Committee has called for Filner's resignation. Political reporter Sandhya Dirks at member station KPBS joins us now from San Diego. And Sandhya, what was the scene like when the mayor came out to make these remarks today?
SANDHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: It was very chaotic. As you might know, this has been a really big story locally and it's beginning to get a lot of attention nationally. So there were reporters from all over the country. The room was crowded. The mayor came out. He said he would not take questions. He was going to just read from a statement, but technical difficulties took over. The audio feed completely cut out of everyone's audio feed. So then the mayor was sitting there kind of waiting for them to try to change the mics.
He was just standing there and, you know, reporters were trying to yell questions. He wasn't answering anything. It was this very surreal moment. He actually went back in a small room behind the podium while they switched out the microphone.
SIEGEL: Well, when he finally got to make the statement, what did he actually admit to doing?
DIRKS: He admitted to intimidating women and acting badly. And he said he couldn't put the blame on him being from a different generation. But he didn't admit to harassment and he did not give details. You know, he basically said, this is bad. I am sorry. I have sullied this office and, yet, didn't get specific.
SIEGEL: Well, the allegations have been floating around for a while, but the identities of seven women accusers have just come out this week. What do we know about them?
DIRKS: There's basically been a new woman every day this week. And what they're saying is they're kind of confirming these allegations that, as you say, were sort of swirling around anonymously. But they're basically saying there was unwanted touching, forced kisses. There's this thing that is being referred to as the Filner headlock, when the mayor sort of puts his arm around them when he tries to kiss them. It's just a kind of - it paints a picture, if these allegations are true, of a pattern of sexual intimidation and harassment of women.
And these allegations go back a number of years to when Filner was a congressman. These women are different ages. They are prominent in local politics. There is a Navy rear admiral is one of them. There is a professor at San Diego State University is another - a dean, I'm sorry, a dean. So you're talking about people who are really part of the community, well known.
SIEGEL: So he is now going into treatment or will go into some kind of treatment for a couple of weeks. What do we know about that?
DIRKS: Well, he's going into rehab, two weeks of intensive therapy, on-site rehab he says. But he says he'll continue to be the mayor. He's not resigning. He says he'll be briefed daily in the mornings and the evenings. It's not totally clear at this point who will run the city afterward, you know, during these two weeks when he's in rehab. And afterwards he says he'll do outpatient therapy. And he says that, you know, he's looking to make a full recovery from this issue that he has.
SIEGEL: Well, since the DNC actually called upon him to resign, who would take over if he did resign as some point?
DIRKS: In a lot of ways, we don't know. That is the big question we are asking right now. He, you know, has lost a lot of support in his own party right now. Not only has the national Democrats asked him to resign but locally here, the San Diego County Democrats have also said the same thing. In addition, you have Nancy Pelosi, who was in Congress with him, you have Congresswoman Susan Davis, all saying he should resign.
And many of the people who have - the women who have come forward with these accusations, they are, in fact, Democrats. Many of them are people who worked to get him elected. I mean, it was a big deal when he was elected. San Diego has not had a Democratic mayor in 20 years. But now it seems to be all falling into chaos.
SIEGEL: Okay, Sandhya. Thank you very much for talking with us about it today.
DIRKS: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's reporter Sandhya Dirks at member station KPBS, talking about the mayor of that city, Democrat Bob Filner.