San Diego mayor faces sex harassment lawsuit, city faces uncertainty
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is being sued by his former communications director for sexual harassment. He has resisted calls to resign, saying he will defend himself 'vigorously.'
(Page 2 of 2)
The president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Authority has said that the scandal has already been a distraction; Filner reportedly had to cancel an Asia trip. But others have survived similar allegations. For example, just before California’s high-profile 2003 California recall election, then-candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to brush away claims from several women that he had groped them.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“When news of the Lewinsky affair broke, many people assumed that [Clinton] would have to quit. But through sheer tenacity or shamelessness – take your pick – he hung on,” he says. “Ever since, his example has been a source of encouragement to public figures facing accusations of sexual misconduct.”
But he suggests Filner is in danger because his situation is different.
“Clinton and Schwarzenegger were able to turn the issue around by blaming political foes for making unfair attacks,” Professor Pitney says. “In this case, the accusations against Filner come from people who were recently political allies.”
Moreover, he adds, “Hillary Clinton and Maria Shriver stood by their men. Filner's fiancée not only dumped him, but joined the ranks of his critics. Clinton and Schwarzenegger could draw on deep reserves of charm and goodwill.”
America's eighth-largest city is no stranger to political problems. In 2004, details emerged of financial dealings going back over 20 years that brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy. Among the criticized moves: selling public land, "corporate welfare" deals with major sports teams, misappropriation of funds, and the underfunding of basic services such as police, fire, and parks. A widening gap in city pension funds helped the city earn national headlines as an "Enron by the sea." The budget woes drew national scrutiny and investigations by the FBI, the US Attorney General's office, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Then, earlier this year, Maureen O’Connor – San Diego’s first woman mayor, who served from 1986 to 1992 – confessed that she had diverted millions of her husband’s money to cover gambling debts.
“Those who live in San Diego are saying thank goodness for Sea World and the world famous zoo, because those are the lenses through which most people see the city,” says Pitney. “They don’t see it as a political town and, in this case, that definitely helps diminish any taint that might emerge from this.”