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San Diego mayor, accused of harassment, to avoid gay pride parade

July 13, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • A frame from a video released by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday in which he apologized for his behavior toward women.
A frame from a video released by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday in… (San Diego mayor's office…)

As a liberal Democrat, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has long been a leader in the gay rights movement, which he likens to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s where he learned his activist style.

He marched in the annual LGBT Pride Parade when it was not a politically safe thing for a local politician to do.

But not this year: Filner issued a statement saying that "with great regret" he will not participate in Saturday's parade lest the controversy over sexual harassment allegations against him becomes a distraction to the importance of the event.

"Please know that I am there with you in spirit," Filner's statement said, "cheering you on and celebrating the extraordinary progress, especially recently, made for the gay community."

Topic A among reporters and City Hall insiders continues to be: Can the 70-year-old Filner survive these charges or is his mayoral tenure doomed after only seven months? Will his apology and promise to seek professional help to mend his ways be sufficient?

In a video released Thursday, Filner apologized for not respecting women but stopped short of admitting that he had sexually harassed them. Late Friday he issued another statement insisting that an investigation will find him innocent of harassment.

There are two other large-scale gatherings this weekend that Filner might be expected to attend in normal times: the annual Over-the-Line softball-style tournament at Fiesta Island and the Stand Down tent-city for homeless veterans near San Diego High.

Both are events that Filner has championed. When a lawyer tried to halt this year's Over-the-Line tourney, Filner ridiculed the lawsuit and issued the needed permit.

In Congress, Filner was a major supporter of veterans benefits, demanding better treatment for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. His grillings of VA bureaucrats at committee hearings are classics.

The raunchiness of Over-the-Line would seem to make Filner's appearance impossible. Whether he will go unannounced to Stand Down to ask veterans what more the federal and local governments can do for them remains unclear.

On Wednesday, two attorneys and a former City Council member demanded that Filner resign because of his alleged harassment of female staff members. On Thursday one of the attorneys referred to the behavior as "reprehensible."

No names or specific details have been revealed, although public radio station KPBS, citing unnamed sources, says the behavior involved kissing, groping and lewd comments. The station broke the story about the resignation demands.

While the details of Filner's alleged behavior remain skimpy, his reputation as a tough boss is well established, which has seemed to provide credibility to the claims of sexual harassment.

“Bob has low impulse control and a self-destructive streak,” said Steve Erie, professor of political science at UC San Diego and coauthor of a book on San Diego politics. “In fairness, he is a nearly equal opportunity harasser, staff-wise.”


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