Skip to main content

No room for lecherous mayors

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
July 31, 2013 -- Updated 1553 GMT (2353 HKT)
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announces last week that he will seek professional help for sexual harassment issues.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announces last week that he will seek professional help for sexual harassment issues.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Seven women have come forward to say San Diego mayor was sexually inappropriate
  • Ruben Navarrette: Mayor Bob Filner is going to therapy, but it's unlikely to cure longtime problem
  • Filner is being sued and wants city to pay his legal bills, he says, but that's ridiculous
  • Navarrette: What Filner really needs to do is resign, because problem is not going away

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

San Diego (CNN) -- Welcome to America's Finest City where the beaches are pristine, the downtown is spotless, but -- if you believe the accusers -- the mayor is filthy.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has set up a hotline for women who believe they are victims of sexual harassment by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. The city attorney's office asked its lawyers, particularly females, as far back as February not to meet with the mayor unless a witness is present. Recently, Filner was restricted from meeting with women alone at city facilities. Every few days, more women come forward to tell their stories.

Filner is taking two weeks off in August -- not for vacation, but for intensive therapy to treat what seems to be a behavioral disorder.

Secrets that women of San Diego no long keep about its mayor

Ruben Navarrette
Ruben Navarrette

Is that what they call it these days? In the 1970s, when Filner began his 20-year career as a university history professor -- after which came a stint on the San Diego City Council and another 20 years in Congress -- we might just as easily have said that he was a lech and left it at that.

Now we think everything is curable. Take a pill. Go to therapy. Attend meetings. But there might not be a cure for what ails Filner. It has afflicted the 70-year-old for too long.

Over the last few weeks, seven women have stepped forward to say that Filner said or did something inappropriate. The accusations range from crude comments to unwanted advances to bullying to the infamous "Filner headlock." Let's say it's not just a friendly hug.

In one of the latest developments in this soap opera by the sea, Filner wants the city to cover his legal expenses to fight a lawsuit filed by one of the women, Irene McCormack Jackson, who is a former employee. Jackson was the first woman to accuse Filner publicly of impropriety. Her 11-page lawsuit alleges that Filner asked her to "get naked" and to kiss him. The San Diego City Council is set to discuss Filner's request this week.

San Diego mayor to enter behavior clinic
Woman: Filner tried to kiss me
San Diego mayor: My behavior was wrong
More women accuse San Diego mayor

The council should deny the request and make Filner pay his own legal bills. He obviously has a problem, and he's admitted as much by going to therapy.

"Let me be absolutely clear," Filner said in a statement. "The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women, and the intimidating contact is inexcusable."

Filner must have known about his failings, while he was in Congress and before he ran for mayor. He needs to take personal responsibility and pay for his own legal defense.

Of course, what Filner really needs to do -- before the list of accusers gets any longer -- is resign.

That's what Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California says. During an appearance Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union With Candy Crowley," the senator said that Filner "lacks a moral compass" and that he should make it easier on himself, his city, and fellow Democrats by stepping down. In California Democratic circles, once you've lost Feinstein, it's game over.

For a politician, the only thing worse than being caught in a sex scandal is being caught in a sex scandal at the same time as someone else. That all but ensures extra coverage by the media, as the two of you will be paired together in the same paragraph in story after story.

Filner has company, a fellow Democrat with whom he served in Congress. New Yorkers are suffering through the "sext-capades" of Anthony Weiner. The supposedly rehabilitated amateur photographer wants to be mayor of New York, but he has fallen to fourth place among Democratic contenders in the polls since admitting he engaged in the same behavior that caused him to resign from Congress in disgrace.

As I watch the Weiner drama from afar, I can't help but think that one of the factors hurting his candidacy is that his public relations machine had gone to such great lengths to portray him as "all better" when it turns out he's not. New Yorkers don't like being played for suckers, and now Weiner is experiencing their wrath.

Filner should watch and learn. He'll be back from his two-week leave of absence soon enough. Then what?

"When I return on August 19," he told reporters, "my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor that I can be and the best person I must be."

Is it really that easy for someone to get rid of a disorder that has plagued him for decades? I don't think so. When he returns to office, Filner might just get into more trouble with women.

And if and when that happens, he'll experience the same public backlash that Weiner has. He might not need to resign. A recall effort is already under way. And hell hath no fury like a voter who thinks he's being played for a fool.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT