San Diego Mayor Bob Filner once called for anyone involved in sexual harassment in the military to be terminated, defended Bill Clinton against accusations of sexual harassment and reminded voters of his opponent’s sexual improprieties.
Filner, who returns to office this week after checking himself out of sexual harassment training early, has been dogged by allegations that he sexually assaulted or harassed more than dozen women. According to the local ABC affiliate, Filner, the city attorney and a lawyer for some of his alleged victims spent Monday in a mediation conference, and the mayor may be considering resigning soon.
But back when he was representing California’s 50th and 51st congressional districts, Filner energetically portrayed himself as a champion of those who had been sexually assaulted in the military.
“There shall be no sexual assaults on our sites,” then-Rep. Filner said emphatically on the floor of Congress in 2011. “And yet what we’re saying here, ‘Oh, we’ll add a few more reporting requirements.’ Well, that doesn’t send a message, because we already had the reporting requirements. Let’s try to find a way… to send a message to our agency not that we are going to pass a few rules but that we’re going to take this seriously.
“We’re going to demand that the employees who did not follow what is clearly stated in rule and law about reporting alleged cases of sexual assault and that they did not follow this. They ought to have been terminated, in my opinion. This is so serious and would have sent such a good message to those who might either perpetrate or are victims of such assault. They should have been terminated. I doubt that they were. I would doubt that they were even removed from their jobs. I would hope the V.A. [Veterans Administration] might contradict me. I doubt that there is anything more than a note that they should do better in the future. I hope I’m wrong but I will tell you that the history of personnel actions in response to acts such as these has not been one that gives confidence to me that we have sent the right message.”
Filner also criticized the Bush Administration for not doing enough to stop sexual harassment in the military.
“The Executive Office of the President seems to care more about hiding the truth about military sexual trauma rather than putting forward a budget to help women and men who have suffered military sexual assault and rape,” Filner wrote in a statement in 2005.
While Filner was showing concern with military rape victims, he was allegedly also taking advantage of them. Two of his accusers so far are women who claim to have been assaulted in the service and first encountered Filner at a 2012 event for the National Women’s Veterans Association of America.
Filner seemed to relax his zero-tolerance policy when it came to investigating sexual harassment and sexual assault against Bill Clinton. Filner dismissed probes of then-President Clinton as a waste of taxpayer expense and a distraction from the issues facing the country.
“We are going to embark on an open-ended investigation while the world economy is collapsing, the healthcare system that needs reform, our finance system is corrupt, and we’ll be talking for months about who touched who where,” he said dismissively of the Ken Starr investigation in 1998. “The continued investigation of the president is nothing more than a cover-up for the failure of a do-nothing Congress to address the real issues facing the American people.”
Filner did not want to address Clinton’s sexual improprieties, but he did make a campaign issue out of his old boss, Rep Jim Bates, and his 1989 rebuke by the House Ethics Committee over sexual harassment charges.
Filner ran against Bates in 1992 for the Democratic primary, and according to the Los Angeles Times, reminded voters of Bates’ sexual misconduct. “Though Bates’ woes have been closely chronicled by the news media, Filner has gone to lengths to keep the controversies alive by reminding voters of them in his mailers,” wrote Barry Horstman of the L.A. Times on May 12, 1992.
The Times went on to endorse Filner for the 50th congressional district election, writing a few weeks later, “Bates is a poster boy for term limits. In the vernacular of the moment, he ‘just doesn’t get it.’ Voters tossed him from office in 1990 after he was rebuked by the House for sexually harassing female aides — but he still has the arrogance of a long-term incumbent.”
The Times has not called for Filner to resign but efforts are mounting to force Filner out.
Filner is also the target of an extortion probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is examining evidence that Filner held up a real estate project until the developer paid him $100,000. (Related: Serious criminal probe may be keeping Filner in office)
Hooters of San Diego has banned the mayor from their restaurants and petitioners are gathering signatures to recall him.
San Diego’s U-T TV even did a parody video of the hit summer song, “Blurred Lines,” calling for Filner to resign.