Filner has few defenders left amid sexual harassment charges


SAN DIEGO – You’d think that somewhere in a corner of this sprawling town, someone, somehow would be willing to stand up for Mayor Bob Filner, San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.

Someone who might say: “Yes, putting women in headlocks, slobbering on their cheeks and patting their bums is awful, but deep down, he’s a good man with good politics and San Diego needs him.”

It would be easier to find a snowball here.

Nine women have come forward to accuse the mayor of unwanted sexual advances. Most are middle-aged professionals, including a college dean and a retired rear admiral.


Friday, my colleague Tony Perry reports, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator became the latest woman to accuse the mayor. At a fundraiser last December, Emily Gilbert told Fox5 San Diego, the mayor “grabbed me a little too tight, then proceeded to slide his hand down my arm and then did a little grab on my derriere.”

From Barrio Logan (Latino district south of downtown) to Mission Beach (coastal playground) to Hillcrest (gay, gay, gay), nary a Filner fan was to be found this week.

“Maybe you’ll find someone if you put on a sandwich sign and walk up and down the street,” suggested one young man in his mid-30s, sitting in a coffee shop on 5th Avenue in Hillcrest. He didn’t want to give his name, nor did his 86-year-old companion. Both said they were Democrats, as is the mayor, and both said they thought he should resign.

“I know precisely zero people who support him,” said the younger man. “He gives off sort of a creeper vibe.”

Added his older friend: “I don’t like his looks. His aura turns me off. I would vote for a recall.”

A few storefronts down, in an antiques store, J. Michael Steele said some people were willing to give Filner the benefit of the doubt when the scandal first broke nearly three weeks ago.

At that point, no women had publicly identified themselves as victims of the mayor’s bad behavior. But once his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, with powerhouse feminist attorney Gloria Allred at her side, announced she was suing the mayor and the city, the dam burst.

“I think seven was the magical number when everyone dumped him,” said Steele, 42.

That was the point at which a poll found that two-thirds of San Diegans think the mayor should resign and 60% said he should be recalled.

A week ago, in a room crowded with reporters, the mayor admitted he had a problem, said he was sorry and announced that he’d be entering a two-week intensive behavior rehabilitation program, starting Monday. Since then, he has disappeared from public view.

But anywhere you go in this city, you can feel him twisting in the wind. He’s even inspiring new recall strategies. No one seems to have a kind word.

“He’s a piece of crap,” said David Merritt, 65, a Republican who sells biometric security systems. Merritt was sitting at a communal table in one of San Diego’s most beloved Mexican lunch spots, Las Cuatro Milpas, known for its rolled tacos. “I feel for the women who have been molested or mistreated.”

Like many, Merritt said he didn’t think that Filner would step down. Or that rehab would change the 70-year-old professional politician.

“I think he’ll stick it out until he’s forced out or voted out,” Merritt said. “He doesn’t have the ethical demeanor or the character to say, ‘I’ve embarrassed my city.’”

In a Starbucks near their beachfront home in Mission Beach, Roger and Carol Knott, a retired couple, were reading the latest news about the mayor, whose lawyer had informed the San Diego City Council that the city was on the hook for Filner’s defense costs because the city failed to give him mandatory sexual harassment training. (The City Council responded by voting not to pay for his defense, and to sue Filner for any legal costs or damages the city incurs as part of the lawsuit.)

“It’s a great sneaky trick on the part of his lawyer,” Roger Knott said. “It’s hard to believe that someone who’s been a congressman in Washington, D.C., and now is a mayor doesn’t understand what sexual harassment is. Today’s newspaper said he’d never taken a sexual harassment training course while he was a congressman.”

His wife chimed in, “I don’t imagine there is a course that says it’s not appropriate to tell someone who works for you to come to work with no panties. It doesn’t take a course to teach you that.”


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Twitter: @robinabcarian