Amita Sharma, KPBS News
Maureen Cavanaugh, KPBS News
Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News
Related Story: Roundtable: More Filner Accusations
SAUER: KPBS had exclusive interviews all week long with a number of women who'd come forward make all sorts of serious sexual harassment allegations.
SHARMA: That's right. Up until yesterday it was as each day went by, an accuser came forward, a named accuser, face, accusations, all long and drawn out. The first one was Monday. Irene McCormack and said that Filner put her in the headlock, dragged her around like a rag doll and harassed her.
SAUER: And she was joined by the attorney who filed the lawsuit, and that's the only lawsuit we know of so far. And that was named women's rights attorney Gloria Allred.
SHARMA: Right. The campaign manager, Laura Fink came forward.
DIRKS: She was a staffer when he was a Congressman.
SHARMA: She came forward, said that he had hit her on her posterior, and that goes back to 2005.
SAUER: During his days in Congress.
SHARMA: When he was a Congressman. Again on Wednesday, another woman by the name of Morgan Rose came forward, she also made accusations that he had tried to kiss her four times in a booth at Marie Calendar's when he was a Congressman in 2009. Then yesterday, four women, accomplished women, came forward and recited their alleged encounters with the mayor. One of them was retired Rear Admiral Ronne Froman. She has a pretty good standing, a great reputation with the public. Another woman, Dean Joyce Gattis here at San Diego State University, she came forward. Businesswoman Patti Roscoe also came forward, and a woman who heads the San Diego port tenants association by the name of Sharon Bernie-Cloward came forward, all citing similar incidents of inappropriate touching, inappropriate comments by Mayor Bob Filner.
SAUER: I want to remind listeners, we are waiting momentarily. The mayor is stepping now to the podium, we are going live to City Hall.
FILNER: Let me be absolutely clear. The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life doing and working on, and that is fighting for equality and justice for all people. It is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation. I apologize to my staff. I apologize to the citizens and staff members who have supported me over the years. I apologize to the people of San Diego. And most of all, I apologize to the women I have offended. Over the last week, I have reached out to the men and women who have served on my staff, and others who I have worked with over the years and apologized for my behavior. In addition, we have instituted changes in how the mayor's office is run. However, words alone are not enough. I am responsible for my conduct. And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again. Beginning on August5th, I will be entering a behavior consulting -- counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy to begin the process of addressing this.
SAUER: We're having technical difficulties. We have to stand by. We're trying to come back to Mayor Filner's remarks here at City Hall. As you just heard, he's apologizing here, he says he's apologized to folks on his staff, to women, he's apologizing to the city, the citizens of San Diego, to supporters over the years. He says he's going to enter a behavioral conduct clinic, a consulting clinic on August5th. We are trying to pick up the mayor's remarks again.
We are still working to take care of that audio problem. We hope to go back to Mayor Filner momentarily. Two weeks, again, to recap, Maureen, we've got two weeks of --
CAVANAUGH: Well, what the mayor took the podium to say was that his behavior is wrong, he's failed to respect women, his behavior has been inexcusable, and it is contrary to all of his other efforts throughout his political career. He says that he has apologized to his staff, to the citizens that he's offended, and he apologizes to San Diego, and he's apologized to some of the women that he has offended. And he went on to say that some changes have been instituted in City Hall. But words are not enough. He says it's time for action, he is responsible for his conduct, and at August5th, he intends to check himself into a behavior counseling clinic for two weeks to receive counseling about this particular incident.
SAUER: Again, you're listening to special coverage, special edition of the Roundtable today. We are going to take your calls. And we'll keep recapping. Unfortunately I apologize, we have lost the audio feed from City Hall. Claire Trageser is reporting from the scene, she has reiterated he will undergo two weeks of counseling and rehabilitation and will take this time off beginning on August5th. And we will open our lines to calls here today. We are going to recap this tumultuous week here and what's happened in San Diego to bring the mayor to this point. We would like you to have a call and join our conversation. If you have a question or a comment. That number is 1-888-895-5727.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. So it's a shame that we're having technical difficulties right now, but I think that we got the gist of what the mayor is saying. He's going to be leaving for -- he is now stepping away from the podium, going into his office. He stood at the podium for a while, while we were having technical difficulty, answer something questions.
SAUER: I should interrupt. Our producer is telling me the audio went out entirely at City Hall. This isn't just a KPBS problem. We're watching a television feed here, he has stepped away. They've interrupted the news conference.
CAVANAUGH: I see, I see.
SAUER: So he's going to come back and apparently finish his statement. So we hope to rejoin live when they have the technical difficulties at City Hall finished. In the meantime, we have David Peters on the line if you would want to talk with him. And I know we've interviewed him before.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, David Peters is a psychotherapist with an office in Mission Valley. Welcome to the show.
PETERS: It's good to join the group today.
CAVANAUGH: David, you heard what we all heard from the mayor so far, he says that actions are needed, and that he's going to go off to this counseling clinic for two weeks. What does that sound like to you?
PETERS: Well, it could be the beginnings of a long road to recovery. But let's be clear: Two weeks isn't anywhere near enough to guarantee success. What we're looking at if the allegations are true, we're looking at a sexually compulsive individual, we're looking at a compulsive disorder. These are very difficult to treat. It takes years to treat. There's no way that two weeks is going to make a very big change. It could be a very good start. If it's a two-week program which is intensive all day long, that's a very good thing to do. But we're talking about needing therapy and maybe even group therapy and some reading and counseling for years to come.
CAVANAUGH: Now, when you say compulsive behavior, is that something that's beyond a person's control?
PETERS: It's similar to an addiction. Think of a gambling addict. You say how could someone not be able to stop gambling? They have to drive all the way out to the casino, they have to pull the money out. But some people find they just cannot stop themselves. And this happens for a variety of reasons. It could take an hour to describe. But people should think of it as if it's an addiction because it's similar to that.
CAVANAUGH: And I'm wondering, as you say, the two weeks might be a drop in the bucket. It might be a good start to something else. And it might be if it's intensive, it might really bring about some positive changes. But we are talking about somebody who is a 70-year-old man, who this behavior has apparently been going on -- he says his behavior is wrong, and if these allegations are true, has been going on for quite sometime. So what does that tell you?
PETERS: Well, it would be -- if he's wise, it would be the end of his political career. Because if I had any client come in with the history that is being described, I would say, well, this could take years to work on. And literally, I would say you're going to be in treatment for at least ten years of time and maybe in the next year whether or not he can arrest the symptoms, but when I'm treating people with compulsive disorders, they can still be having the problem a year later. Quite easily. And they might be reduced for a significant amount. It might be 90% gone. But you have flare-ups again just like you have with addictions, relapses. And my clients who are going to groups for sexual compulsivity, and sexual addictions, they know that just because you don't want to do this anymore doesn't mean you're free of it. It can take years of very difficult work. And if he's 70, well, maybe he can be completely free of it by the time he's 80, but that's a little late for coming back into his role here as mayor.
SAUER: David, it's Mark Sauer, I had a question for you. We have had a number of interviews this week, KPBS actually has done a number of interviews exclusively with several women who are repeating the same MO, which is personal talk, too close, invading space, getting hands-on in certain situations, are you married, you're beautiful, I'd like to kiss you, etc. From what you see in the reports, does that indicate to you that this is what we're talking about, a compulsive disorder?
PETERS: Yes. The signs, assuming that everybody is telling the truth, and the like he hood of an organized lie is very small, these are very much the signs of a compulsive disorder that's gone on a long time, and he's been probably in full denial of its significance for a long period of time. And just like an addiction, compulsive disorders like this, sexual compulsivity, it's very difficult to talk about. We can see on television, a movie star come in and say I'm being treated for alcoholism, and everybody cheers and says good for you! But how many times do you see a movie star get on television and say I'm being treated for sexual addiction?
SAUER: I'm going to have to interrupt you just now. I hope you'll hang with us. I am seeing on the television that the -- it appears they have got the audio problem fixed at City Hall. This is a live press conference involving mayor Bob Filner who's making a statement today about leaving office for at least two weeks time to get some counseling and rehabilitation for what he calls his problem with women. We're watching now. They've knocked on the door. The mayor was out. He was making his statement, and appeared to maybe take questions. They're coming through the door now.
FILNER: For the sake. Those who want a clean tape, I'm going to start over. Let me be completely clear. The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact I engage in at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life working for fighting for equality and justice for all people. And it is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation. I apologize to my staff, I apologize to the citizens and staff members who have supported me over many years. I apologize to the people of San Diego.
Most of all, I apologize to the women that I have offended. Over the last week or so, I have reached out to the men and women who have served on my staff and others who I have worked with over the years and apologized for my behavior. In addition, we have instituted changes in how the mayor's office is run. However, words alone are not enough. I am responsible federal my conduct. And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again. So beginning on August5th, I will be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy to begin the process of addressing my behavior. During this time period, I will be at the clinic full-time. Though every morning and evening I will be briefed on city activities. This intensive counseling will just be the first step in what will be a continuing program that will involve ongoing regular counseling. I must become a better person. And my hope is that by becoming a better person, I put myself in a position to someday be forgiven. However, before I even ask, before I even think of asking for forgiveness, I need to demonstrate that my behavior has changed. And that will only happen over time, and only if such incidents never ever happen again. So when I return on August19th, my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be. Thank you.
SAUER: That was mayor Bob Filner with live remarks and a statement he made at City Hall. He finished his statement. It was interrupted by audio problems. I don't know exactly. Do you have a time on that? I would say it was under five minutes total once he started again.
SAUER: I'm joined here at the Roundtable, a special edition on KPBS Midday Edition by Maureen Cavanaugh who hosts the show through the we think. Investigative reporter, Amita Sharma, and Sandhya Dirks.
SHARMA: Boy, I have to say! I think that had he made a statement like this a year ago, during the campaign, come forward and said I have been accused of -- he had been accused of, perfect that point, of disrespecting women. He would have given voters all the information they needed to make a sound decision. Had he come forward with that statement two weeks ago, he probably would have garnered some sympathy. I think the level of sympathy that he's seeking today with this statement, he's apologizing to the women whom he says he's been disrespectful toward. He's apologizing to staff members, he's apologizing to the City of San Diego. From a political perspective, from a strategic perspective, there's a point to all of this. The interesting question is will it work? There was a poll that came out earlier this week that said 70% of San Diegans want him to resign. And that was before the Democratic Party voted last night to ask him to resign. That was before four very high-profile women came forward and also accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.
DIRKS: And before the national Democratic Party also called on him to resign.
SAUER: Maureen, will you please reintroduce our guest on the line?
CAVANAUGH: David Peters is a psychotherapist with an office in Mission Valley. We've heard the whole statement now, David. Does that bring any nuance to your response to what the mayor said?
PETERS: Well, the challenge here is he's expecting to be kept abreast of events within the office during this treatment period. And if I was his therapist, I'd say, no, you need to let go of that completely. You need to focus here. And his sense that he can resume his office in two weeks afterward is wildly optimistic, given the circumstances. I want to keep in mind, I've not met him, so I can't give an official diagnosis, but if not a compulsive disorder, then we're talking about behavior that was within his control that he was deciding to do, and then it would be a serious character flaw that would certainly disqualify him from being in the office. This would be something that he wanted to do. Almost a sociopathic element of uncaring, given the number of women who in the past had accused him. So I'm kind of giving the benefit of the doubt and saying it's a compulsive disorder.
CAVANAUGH: And from what I know of treatment for compulsive behaviors or addictions, there are often relapses are there not?
PETERS: Yes, what we know from the recovery community is the very important line: Relapse is a part of recovery. What I work on most with the sexually compulsive clients I have is they have to work on not feeling overwhelmed with shame and guilt when they relapse, because it happens. And they have to be able to talk about it and work through it and get group support for it. Group support is critical for this sort of thing. And how is he going to get group support treatment when he's in the mayor's office? How could he have confidentiality that he needs in the group therapy situation when he's actually still functioning as mayor?
SAUER: And we're told the plan now is that he will be briefed each morning and evening on city business.
PETERS: Yes, which is a major distraction. If someone enters an in-patient setting, most often if done right, they say you need to let go of everything. You need to focus 100% here. Sometimes it can be done with keeping track. But not only is he keeping track of the mayor's office, he's keeping track of the controversy he himself caused. And that involves shame and fear and anxiety about what's going to happen next. All that could undermine any treatment he could get. So by trying to keep the office, he's undermining any possibility of getting healthy, of really indulging himself in the treatment that he deserves and that everybody else deserves for him to get.
SAUER: Why wait till August 5 too? It is a critical problem.
PETERS: Well, it's not a life and death emergency, so we're probably waiting for an opening. It could be as simple as that. And maybe he wants to get some things prepared. But very unrealistic to resume the office in two weeks. That's just assuming with two weeks of group therapy and individual, maybe some medication I'll be better and I'll be able to function and he'll just have his therapy in the evenings after work. Relapse is a part of recovery. The chances of him having another problem are so great it would just lock up the news and the mayor's office and all the business of San Diego in such a way that would be intolerable.
SAUER: We have a neurologist from UCSD on the line, James. David, stay with us.
BREWER: This is James Brewer. Just hearing these symptoms of the mayor, and at his age level, one wonders if this is something that truly was going on for years or if it only came on in older age, and if so, then certainly something to be considered is early stages of a front-temporal dementia, and I was curious what the thoughts might be about that. Certainly something to watch, I think.
SAUER: And how would that manifest itself, specifically?
BREWER: Certainly impulsiveness and inappropriate interpersonal conduct is one of the things we first see in patients like this. And then it progresses to become very, very impulsive to where a patient cannot even hold themselves from getting out of a movie car, things like that. So they lose the frontal lobe, which is your impulsive control, and certainly sexual impulses are one of the first things to go. And it's just something I wonder. Mayor Filner did mention that this has been going on for years, but one wonders how he could have been 20 years in Congress and not have something like this come out, especially when the behavior is so bizarre such as grabbing somebody in a headlock and whispering sexual things to them.
SAUER: Amita Sharma had a question.
SHARMA: Hi, doctor, I was wondering though, the mayor is able to carry on the duties of his office, if you talk to him, if you interview him, he's pretty lucid about the facts. Is that conducive with the condition you're describing?
BREWER: Certainly in the early stages of this illness, a person can carry on conversations, have very appropriate otherwise interactions, don't have problems with memory, but they certainly would have problems with judgment and -- again, it's just speculation. I've not interacted with Mr. Filner or anything. But it just strikes me as a 70-year-old exhibiting this kind of behavior and not having anything come out in the prior years, and I'm just wondering, I guess if all of these cases are from the recent time of his standing as the mayor or if there was any hint of this happening when he was back in Congress.
SAUER: Well, there certainly was in terms of the reporting we've done. Sandhya?
DIRKS: I'm kind of interested in what the mayor actually admitted to in this statement, because we're making a lot of assumptions that he admitted to everything that he's women have said. He didn't. He was careful not to actually talk about what he did. And he was also very careful to say that his behavior was intimidating. What we're hearing from these women is far beyond intimidating. In addition he says that he offended the women. But we're hearing from the women is it's far more than just an incident that offended them. What he's owning up to, it really isn't clear. He said he's going to therapy. Did he admit to sexual compulsion? Did he admit he's done the things he's being alleged with? There is a vagueness here that is it important to put our finger on.
SAUER: David Peters?
PETERS: We have to keep in mind that when he was running for the mayor's office, there were many rumors of him having these problems for years in the past. That's given the indication that in the last ten years, at least, it's been going on. And there could be something like a frontal lobe functioning issue going on. We want to know the long history it. And the other challenge is, he's in a bit of a fix here, if he truly admits to what he's accused of, he could be arrested for sexual assault. And yet in order to get healed, he has to be able to be truly honest about what's gone on and really be able to make up for it with apologies and things.
SHARMA: So we come back to the question, can you undergo intensive behavioral therapy and still be the mayor of the United States' 8th largest city?
CAVANAUGH: And one of the things that was not addressed as Sandhya mentioned, there are many things not addressed in the statement, but one of the things, one of the pivotal things is the reason why Bob Filner should remain mayor. If he is admitting to this deep behavioral problem that requires two weeks of intensive counseling, monitoring after that, instituting changes in the way the mayor interacts with members of the public, why should Bob Filner remain mayor? That's one of the questions that remains.
SHARMA: And it speaks to what house minority leader Nancy Pelosi said this week when she condemned the actions that the mayor is accused of. She said that if he wants to seek therapy, he should do it on his own private time.
SAUER: We have a news update from KPBS news. We learned if Bob Filner does not resign by 5:00PM Monday, the folks doing the local recall will begin that process. Again, KPBS news is reporting if Filner doesn't resign by 5:00PM Monday, the recall process will begin. We have on the line now Claire Trageser who was covering the press conference there today. And we're all a little disappointed we had that technical glitch. But Claire, can you tell us what the scene was down there? How many folks were there, and put us in the room.
TRAGESER: Yeah, it was quite a scene. There were multiple, multiple media outlets there. Tons of news cameras, national as well as local. When we were all waiting in the lobby before the news conference started, Michael Pallamary came in and delivered his letter that said if the mayor didn't resign by 5:00PM, he was going to start the recall process.
SAUER: And remind us who that is.
TRAGESER: He's a land use consultant who has been leading the recall effort so far. He started the recall Bob Filner Facebook page, and he also was the only person who's led a successful recall effort in San Diego's history.
SAUER: All right, and were you surprised the mayor didn't take any questions there? Were there some grumblings from reporters?
TRAGESER: No, I wasn't surprised because that seems to be his way of handling this throughout. It was very strange and odd when there was the technical difficulty. For a few minutes he just stood there, kind of facing everyone. And one person shouted a question, where is the rehab center that you're going to go to, and immediately his communications staff said no questions. And after a minute when it seemed like there wasn't going to be an easy fix to the technical difficulty, he went back into the small room that he'd come from with his chief of staff and waited until the problems were solved. And then a staff member knocked on the door, and he came back out and reread his statement from the beginning because he said TV news maybe wanted a clean cut of the whole statement. So it was very, very surreal to just watch him standing there, go back, come back, and then start from the beginning and read it again.
CAVANAUGH: Claire, this is Maureen, in the statement, I did not hear -- perhaps it was me, I did not hear the term “leave of absence”. I did not hear that anybody else was going to be acting mayor while he was in this clinic. I heard that he was going to be taking AM/PM briefings on city business. So does that mean that Bob Filner still intends to remain mayor and acting mayor while he is in rehab?
TRAGESER: Well, exactly. That is one of the big questions that's unanswered. He did not address at all whether someone would be in charge during the day while he's at this clinic, who that person will be, how that will run. He said that every morning and evening I will get briefings on city activities.
SAUER: All right. And Walt Eckert in the wheelhouse, steering the ship right now, we wonder where he is in all this. He wasn't there at City Hall.
TRAGESER: No, he may have been at City Hall, but not at the press conference. His chief of staff was standing by his staff while he read the statement.
SAUER: But the chief operating officer notably was not standing there with the mayor.
TRAGESER: No, he was not.
SAUER: Claire, thanks very much. We're working on this story throughout the day. I want to remind listener, we will take your calls. That number is 1-888-895-5727. We'll take one now. Michael, go ahead.
MICHAEL: I just wanted to say that I think that the kind of -- the condemning and the speculative accusations and rumors that you guys are spreading, talking about Bob Filner, I mean a guy we all know that's had a long progressive history of fighting for the common man and fighting for civil rights, and is obviously a very successful mayor, and basically demeaning him using these accusations which are not -- have no evidence, no video, no proof. Most of them --
SAUER: Let me interrupt you right there, Michael. Let's go back to the mayor's own words today at the top of this press conference. I apologize, I've treated women badly, I need help, I have frailties, I have a monster within me, he's said in the last couple of weeks, how do you square that with what you just said?
MICHAEL: Well, he's not saying that he has sexually assaulted somebody. He's saying that he has asked them on dates, he's flirted with them, he's gone out and had a bad date, and then these women have taken that and gone to their subjective interpretation of it, and from their point of view, and said that it's some kind of sexual assault.
SAUER: Michael, excuse me, would you call a date going up to a woman and putting your hands on someone at a public event? You call that a date?
MICHAEL: Absolutely not. But did you see him do that? Did he admit to doing that?
SAUER: We have many witnesses who have.
DIRKS: And also usually when you have a bad date, you don't need to go into therapy for two weeks. Obviously this entry into therapy is some sort of admission that he has a problem.
CAVANAUGH: I just wanted to say too, Michael, in our breaking news, before we had the breaking news of the mayor making this statement, we were going to have breaking a declaration by a former intern in the mayor's office, and he in this declaration he writes that he has witnessed the mayor intimidating employees, and going off and speaking with women and being very touchy, asking them about their relationship status, and that other people in the mayor's office would basically say that this is the hardest part of their job, watching him do this. It's in a declaration that was submitted. It's a legal declaration by Christopher Baker. So this is one witness coming out to at least in part substantiate that there's been a pattern of sexual harassment engaged in by mayor Bob Filner.
MICHAEL: There's no evidence, there's no depositions, there's no due process. Nobody reported this in the past. How come it all suddenly comes out now?
SAUER: All right, thanks Michael. There has been a lawsuit and a declaration as we just said. We are taking calls. That number is 1-888-895-5727. David Peters are you still with us?
SAUER: I did want to ask you, the caller, obviously there are still many strong supporters of Bob Filner. He did win an election here just a matter of months ago. What do you make of that point of view here? It sounds like denial is not just the river running through City Hall.
PETERS: Not just. This is going to be very painful for San Diegans, especially his supporters. We have to keep in mind some of his strongest supporters have been the ones to confront him. And it's a very painful turn from wanting to know is that your mayor, who you really believe in, are who's done such good work, and he's done very good work in his political history, to know that he actually has this other side. It's difficult to comprehend, and it's difficult for people to accept, and it's a very painful process to learn to accept it. So I think we're going to have some significant arguments and lots of anger coming up in these discussions, and I would advise everybody to relax, just chill for a little bit and speak with compassion and care for one another. It's not going to be an easy road, especially with the mayor refusing to leave office.
SHARMA: And I think David's point is well taken. The poll that the U-T and Channel 10 did earlier this week showed that 66% of the people who were familiar with the general harassment allegations believed they were true.
CAVANAUGH: And there's nothing wrong with challenging these accusations.
SHARMA: You want them to be challenged.
CAVANAUGH: But here we have the mayor coming out, and while he didn't address any specifics, saying his behavior is wrong, apologizing, and going to a behavioral counseling clinic.
SHARMA: And there is a political price, and there is a legal price if he addresses the specifics.
DIRKS: Which is one of the reasons that -- the statement was as all of his statements have been carefully controlled, and carefully worded. It makes sense that they would be. But he does not necessarily want to implicate himself. There is of course this due process that we're talking about, that there is this lawsuit against him in the city. And I just want to note something. The lawsuit, his deposition for that lawsuit, is scheduled to happen on the 8th of August.
SAUER: It says August 9 here.
DIRKS: August 9. But he will be, according to his own statement today, in full-time onsite therapy during that time. So that's another thing that I think we should talk about.
SAUER: That brings up an interesting point. You're referring to a deposition that would be in had connection with the lawsuit filed Monday by Irene McCormack Jackson and her attorney, Gloria Allred. We could reschedule a deposition. But the overall question on that is does this lawsuit go forward now, in light of the mayor's statement, his efforts to seek help, do they drop that lawsuit? They seemed to suggest Monday in questioning from reporters that may might leave the door opening to dropping that. But I know it's speculation.
SHARMA: They might leave the door open to settling it, not dropping it.
CAVANAUGH: If the mayor resigns.
DIRKS: And it was about resignation, exactly. It wasn't about therapy and staying in office.
SAUER: And I should remind listeners, obviously KPBS will be on this story throughout the day. That's one of many story angles that we'll take on what's going to happen, what now is the status of that lawsuit. And we will contact Gloria Allread's office here today and report that to you. I'm Mark Sauer, I'm joined here in a special edition of the KPBS Roundtable by Maureen Cavanaugh, are Sandhya Dirks, and Amita Sharma of KPBS news staff. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Let's talk more about that recall effort.
DIRKS: Here's the interesting thing. As we heard from Claire Trageser, that there is somebody set there who's putting the wheels in effort for this recall motion, who's at the mayor's office trying to deliver this notice. But we talked to somebody completely different, stamp Corbin, the owner and publisher of the LGBT Weekly, and he put an announcement in the UT this morning saying that he has filed for a recall. He now has five days to alert the mayor to this filing, and the process according to him starts now. And that's a 60-day process, 21 days are just informing people, and there's 39 days where people have the ability to sign up and support the petition. I don't know what this means, that there's these dueling recall efforts, which each of them mean. Pallamary at the mayor's office has been a longtime opposer of Filner. Corbin on the other hand was a supporter. So you have very different things happening.
SHARMA: Is there a requirement to merge the two recalls?
DIRKS: I have no idea.
SAUER: And it might depend on what the purpose and the motivation is behind each separate recall. We have a caller on the line. Go ahead. David on line four.
DAVID: When I heard Bob Filner make his speech, I didn't get the impression he was necessarily admitting he had a problem. He said he thinks he has a problem and he needs to go get it taken care of. But there's enough people who are saying you've got this problem, you need to get it looked at. And people were misusing sexual harassment. If he goes up to a woman and tries to kiss them, and the woman rebuts his advances and he doesn't try it again, that's okay. That's how people meet each other. He may have got the wrong impression. Those things happen. So as long as he was told no and he didn't pursue it further, then it's not really sexual harassment. It might be more like egg on your face, and it's a little embarrassing.
SAUER: All right, David, I meet a lot of women, I don't go up and attempt to kiss them, especially strangers. One of the women here like to take this on?
DIRKS: We appreciate that you don't do that, mark. Sexual harassment actually is any unwanted touching, or attention. And the second woman that came forward to KPBS, Morgan Rose, talked about receiving kisses four times, four times he tried to kiss her. So even if you are sort of diluting what I understand the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace to be, you still have under your definition a very active instance of sexually harassing a woman, a woman who was saying no, a woman who was saying please don't do this. If what she alleges is true, that did not detur -- did not prevent Filner from continuing to make unwanted advances.
SAUER: All right. We've got another caller, Neil on line 6.
NEIL: Yes, I appreciate the call. To me, the level of denial I think is almost --
SAUER: Neil, I'm afraid you're breaking up. It sounds like you're quite amazed by the level of denial we've seen from the mayor. David Peters are you still with us?
PETERS: Denial is a normal process of slowly coming to grips with the reality. Assuming that these allegations are true, and I'm not going to be the judge, what we have is a man who for years has been acting with grossly inappropriate conduct while trying to be a good guy, trying to do good work in the political arena. And what that requires is a certain amount of compartmentalization in the mind, where you keep parts of you hidden from other parts of you. It's keeping different categories of yourself in check in the mind. And it takes time for the brain to fully integrate the new reality of, okay, not only am I doing this, but everybody knows I'm doing it, it's affecting everybody, and I need to be able to talk about it openly. And as he begins to talk about it, the denial process begins to break down. But that's if the work is going well. Sometimes people go into treatment thinking I'll just do this and I'll get out and I won't have any problem anymore, are and the denial is just as strong as ever.
SAUER: Are you surprised about how strong some of the supporters are engaging in the similar thing?
NEIL: Well, frankly I'm thinking he might have some supporters who plan to come in and vigorously do this on the phone. But these are people who believe in him, who love him, and to have your hero go down in this ugly embarrassing way is very painful. And so yeah, it's going to be some vigorous arguments. And this commercial TV and radio will have a field day with it, encouraging the conflict to make it bigger news. We have to be careful here. There is real human lives involved in this. The women who have been hurt have been truly hurt, and they don't want this to become a football. They don't want this to become something that's exciting to watch. They're already feeling degraded enough, and they want this to be taken with calmness and seriousness and without starting new arguments.
SHARMA: David, how well do you think the general public understands sexual harassment? What it entails?
PETERS: Well, it's amazing to me how many people don't get it because they're not really introduced to the topic. And each generation has new people who have to be taught what's okay and what's not okay. And what people tolerate in their own private behavior and their own private lines would amaze the general public. Granted, I'm in a field where I hear about things that don't get talked about openly. And sexual harassment, a lot of people just don't accept that what they're doing is wrong. They experience it as truly normal, and this is not just in our society, this is around the globe. We have in Egypt groups of men actively sexually assaulting women and thinking this is acceptable for them. So it's part of the human race's problem of learning to respect boundaries.
SAUER: A caller, Maria on line 5. Go ahead.
SAUER: Oh, I thought we had Maria next.
PETE: My name is Pete.
SAUER: Okay, go ahead.
PETE: My question was about information we're getting at election time. And it just seemed to me that there wasn't a lot of -- in the media in San Diego, with the exception of KPBS, there's not a lot of honest brokers. So the early allegations would come out, but then the UT, we find out later they're charging different rates for the different campaigns. So it was really hard to get good information. And then fundamentally, we didn't really have a big choice at the election. Carl DeMaio comes across as very mean-spirited, he's against the public sector. So we didn't have good information, and we didn't have a great choice.
SHARMA: Well, yeah, if your question is why didn't we know this at election time, there's a very clear reason. We just like other San Diegans who are actually playing inside baseball heard the same rumors about Bob Filner. Again, they're just still rumors at this point because this hasn't been presented in a court of law. But what we didn't have then that we do have this week is we had women coming forward publicly sharing their stories. And the interesting thing is, it was like pulling teeth getting these women to come forward! And we've been at this for several months now. Think about this. Two weeks ago, Bob Filner's allies came forward and said, look, we believe that he has sexually harassed women, we've heard untold stories, it took a full two weeks before the women actually spoke! So I think your point is well taken, caller. However, if people don't speak to us, we can't report rumor and innuendo.
SAUER: Thanks for your call, Pete. We have a little more news to report. Matt Hall with U-T San Diego is reporting that the San Diego Democratic Party, the leader of that party, Francine Busby now says the demes may rescind their call that Bob Filner resign. "I now need to see if Democrats want to give him a chance." Of course they voted last night overwhelmingly to ask for the mayor's resignation.
SHARMA: I have to say I think that might create quite a chasm between the democratic national committee and the San Diego Democratic Party. I understand why the Democratic Party waited one week before they actually called on him to resign. I know they were deadlocked a week ago. But they faced a lot of criticism for not speaking out earlier.
DIRKS: And I talked to Francine last night after the meeting and last week after that deadlock, and even last night, she seemed really upset about having to make this decision. And she told me this entirety of reconciling these two things that don't seem to go together, reconciling this man who was an incredible progressive leader, who was a freedom rider, who went to jail for civil rights issues, with somebody who at the same time is now facing complaints of degrading women. So she said that it was really difficult for her to reconcile those things. And that it felt incredibly -- it felt like a tragedy for her. I talked to somebody who was in the meeting last week, and they said the big divide is between the younger Democrats who really want Filner to go, they don't think he's a strong leader, they're not willing to stand by him. And some of the older stalwart Democrats who are saying let's give him another chance because they are so attached to what he's done.
CAVANAUGH: I think the big question that remains is who's going to be running San Diego!
CAVANAUGH: With Bob Filner going into a behavioral counseling clinic on August 5, receiving intensive counseling for whatever problem it's deemed that he has, who is going to be running San Diego? He's going to be briefing -- getting briefings AM and PM --
DIRKS: Who will be giving him those briefings?
CAVANAUGH: Will we be seeing Todd Gloria as president of the City Council take on the mantel of acting mayor?
SAUER: For just two weeks.
CAVANAUGH: We were told originally that the City Council had very limited options when this -- when it came to this burgeoning scandal at City Hall.
SHARMA: And I think it's unclear because this is such uncharted territory. I don't know that City Hall has been placed in a position like this up to this point.
SAUER: We heard from the Democrats moments ago where they may consider rescinding their call for him to resign. A Republican now has weighed in, councilman Kevin Faulconer Faulconer said "two weeks of therapy will not end decades of bad behavior. Bob Filner should leave to receive the help he obviously needs. He shouldn't take the office of mayor and San Diego's city government with him. He needs to resign and seek long-term treatment as a private citizen." That seems to dovetail, David, with what you were saying.
PETERS: Yes, well, it does, and we have to keep in mind, this is going to take time. He's going in for treatment, he must agree there's something wrong that needs to be treated or he wouldn't do it. And this stuff doesn't go away in weeks. It doesn't even go away in a year. It takes a lot of work. To be able to focus on the city and all the challenges San Diego has, I just don't see it. If I was his therapist and only cared about his recovery, I'd say I might not even be able to treat you if you're going to do this.
SAUER: Very interesting. We have another caller, Amy, go ahead.
AMY: Hi. I'd just like to say in response to some of the previous callers that harassment is a subjective thing, and it is judged based on whether a woman feels threatened. So the caller who is talking about it might be my way of asking for a date, in the workplace, even if you are asking for a date in a way more appropriate than kissing somebody, that's not appropriate. And especially if you're in a position of authority. And I'd also just like to comment regarding the Francine Busby remark, I feel the same way she does. I was a Filner supporter. I support his values in policy. But I'm just -- I can't any longer support him. I'm a woman first and a progressive Democrat second. It makes me very, very sad, angry, not only because of his own personal circumstances because this can't be easy, but more so for the victims, of course, that they have to be put in this position. And I'm just more than anything sad. And I would just like to hear a little bit more compassion coming out of people. Everybody is angry and rattling chains and calling for this and what not.
SAUER: Okay, thanks Amy, so much for your call. Another caller, Allen, you're with our group. New hello, Allen? Are you there?
ALLEN: Yes, this is Allen. I got hung up on.
SAUER: Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead with your comment, please.
ALLEN: Yeah, I think this whole issue brings up a much broader thing about what does a system of justice look like in our society and culture. A system that really restores and protects everyone in our community? It seems like we need to be looking at a much broader issue than just the mayor and the women involved.
SAUER: Okay, very good. Sandhya?
DIRKS: And I do think there is a broader issue about women in 2013. Obviously we're talking to different people who have very different ideas of what is appropriate. So there is a sense where women have advanced in amazing leaps and bounds in the past decades, but what does this mean? And even Filner said I can't excuse this on the fact that times have changed. But there certainly is some of that narrative. So how have times changed, and what does this tell us about women who are working within circles of power? There is a bigger conversation to be had about that.
CAVANAUGH: And who's going to be running the City of San Diego?
[ LAUGHTER ]
DIRKS: I'm sensing a theme!
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: That is a huge question. Walt Eckert, the longtime chief of the county has been brought in a couple of weeks ago to steer the ship here.
DIRKS: He's already taken over the mantel of some of what the mayor was already doing.
SAUER: Okay. Amita, we just got a minute and a half left. I just wanted to see what your thoughts were, you interviewed so many of these women this week. What do you think they think of when they're listening to all this today?
SHARMA: Well, they were very clear in my interview with them yesterday that they want mayor Bob Filner to resign in no uncertain terms. I think that we are headed into very unprecedented, I think we haven't seen something like this at City Hall before where you have a mayor embroiled in a sex scandal, and he is not quitting. He's actually saying, you know what? I'm going to go into rehab but hold onto the reins of power. The big question is who will lead while he's away. The other question is, can he survive politically?
SAUER: The original accusers, Donna Frye, former council woman, and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs have released a statement, and they're saying not surprisingly, "rehab is what bad politicians do after resigning."
CAVANAUGH: So much for compassion.
SAUER: So much for sympathy and compassion there from the original folks. And they did get the ball rolling on this, and it's been a remarkable three weeks. I think we're just about out of time now. I want to thank my guests on this special edition of the Roundtable on KPBS Midday Edition. Maureen Cavanaugh, Sandhya Dirks, and Amita Sharma of KPBS News.