San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has had a busy month: last week, some of his closest supporters accused him of sexually harassing and intimidating numerous female employees and called for his resignation. He issued an apology but refused to step down. And now, like a true victim of circumstance-created-by-your-own-damn-vile-behavior, he's leveraging the negative media attention by attempting to deliver a keynote address at a benefit for sexual assault survivors.
On July 11, following public sexual harassment accusations from his own supporters, Filner made a statement in which he admitted that he had failed to respect his female employees and that he had intimidated them at times. "If my behavior doesn't change, I cannot succeed in leading our city. You have every right to be disappointed in me. I only ask that you give me the opportunity to prove that I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city's future can be realized."
In a July 11 press conference, Donna Frye, a former councilwoman and key supporter of Filner, said, "There is no doubt in my mind that these allegations are true" — although she didn't elaborate on what had allegedly occurred. On Monday, July 15, she was more forthcoming with the disgusting details: one woman claims that she mayor grabbed her and kissed her against her will after a meeting; another victim, who volunteered on his campaign, states that the mayor repeatedly attempted to "ram his tongue down her throat" and stuck his hand in her bra; a third says that he told her that she'd do a better job "without [her] panties on."
Just hours after the press conference in which Frye outlined the specific details of what he had done, Mayor Filner gave a bafflingly out-of-touch interview with KUSI, a San Diego radio station:
The fact that there are charges greatly concerns me... I'm a very demonstrative person. I express myself demonstrably. I'm a hugger, of both men and women. And, if it turns out that those are taken in an offensive manner, I need to have a greater self-awareness of what I am doing. My whole political career has been about being an outgoing person, and I have to deal with that, certainly, in a more self-aware way.
Oh, hugging; is that what we're calling it now? He added, "There is a difference between someone who is tough to work for... and sexual harassment." Not if the reason someone is "tough to work for" is because they sexually harass you, there's not.
In a particularly ironic twist, Mayor Filner was scheduled to attend a benefit entitled "Against Military Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Violence Against Women and Children" this week. The man was to be awarded a lifetime leadership award for his work on the behalf of female veterans, which included preventing sexual assault. For obvious reason's, he's been stripped of the honor; however, his camp has confirmed his appearance there as a keynote speaker. He will be discussing his recent sexual harassment scandal. As ThinkProgress points out, though, some of the allegations could qualify as sexual assault — which is why it's particularly troubling that the speech is still being allowed to happen.
"He is now the keynote speaker on these injustices," says the group hosting the benefit, the National Military Women Veterans Association of America. According to their president, Tara Jones: "We need to have awareness, then have more dialogue to fix this." But is this actual contrition on the disgraced mayor's part, or merely a face-saving political move? Since he all but rescinded his apology with that horrible, defensive "I'm a hugger" statement, I don't think it's at all unreasonable to go with the latter explanation.
"San Diego Mayor Who Admitted To Sexual Harassment Will Deliver Keynote For Sexual Assault Survivor Benefit" [ThinkProgress]
"Mayor Bob Filner to deliver keynote address at benefit for sexual assault victims" [10News]
"Frye Alleges Mayor Bob Filner 'Rammed' His Tongue Down Victim's Throat" [SanDiego6]
Image via AP.