Filner Not Invited To Speak At National Women Veterans Association Gala
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Aired 7/25/13 on KPBS News.
The president of the National Women Veterans Association of America canceled Mayor Bob Filner's keynote speech over sexual harassment allegations today.
Special Feature Read the Backstory
All of the accusations, statements and apologies from the key players in the developing story about allegations of sexual harassment in Mayor Bob Filner's office and calls from former mayoral supporters for his resignation.
Tara Jones, president of the association, said the mayor's scheduled speech was a distraction from the message of the gala, which is eliminating military sexual assault, sexual harassment and violence against women and children.
"The mayor speaking at our event interferes with the moral compass of my organization," Jones said.
Filner was originally scheduled to receive a “Lifetime Achievement Recognition Award” during the association's gala August 30 at the U. S. Grant Hotel. After sexual harassment allegations were made against the mayor, the association decided not to give him the award, but instead made him the keynote speaker.
Jones said public allegations made Monday by Filner's former communications director Irene McCormack were the tipping point in her decision to cancel his speech. She also said the mayor's admission that he "needs help," and the fact that he was in a committed relationship with his fiance while allegedly making advances on other women also contributed to her decision.
Although Filner will not speak, he is still invited to attend, she said. The name of the gala, the San Diego Mayor's Benefit Gala, will not change.
This event is the first of what Jones hopes will be many mayor's galas across the country in years to come. After her decision to make Filner the keynote speaker, Jones said she received thousands of phone calls from veterans and political leaders who were concerned about the mayor's speech.
"It has hurt our organization tremendously," she said. "That's why we encourage San Diego to stand before the entire nation and send a message of who they are and that whatever's going on does not define our city."
While Jones spoke, a few people held "Due Process for Mayor Filner" signs and sometimes interrupted her with shouts of "innocent until proven guilty." Jesse Braisher and Deborah Bilkovic, who both described themselves as homeless, held signs because they said Filner has done more for the homeless than any other mayor.
"He makes sure the cops don't harass us," Braisher said, adding that he doesn't believe the sexual harassment allegations.
Braisher and Bilkovic said they were given the Due Process signs by Anita Wucinic-Turner, a Filner supporter. Wucinic-Turner said she's protested at several press conferences because she doesn't think the allegations are valid.
"I'm very disappointed that they voted not to let Bob be a speaker because Bob is still to be innocent until proven guilty," she said.
The National Women Veterans Association of America endorsed Filner last summer during his campaign to be San Diego's mayor.
The mayor did not respond to requests for comment.