Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Wants Redemption In New Interview
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is apologizing yet again for sexually harassing numerous women during his political career, asking for redemption in his first substantive comments since the #MeToo movement prompted more public conversations about the sexual abuse women face.
“The harm I did to anybody, first of course, [I] continue to sincerely apologize,” Filner said, speaking with KQED’s The California Report.
KQED politics and government reporter Katie Orr, a former KPBS metro reporter, also came forward with her account of harassment from Filner while at KPBS.
The California Report interviewed Filner as part of a series on the #MeToo movement, hoping to learn why men abuse their power.
“Nobody would say no to you,” Filner said. “That becomes very intoxicating, again without your necessarily knowing it consciously.”
But he also suggested he and others accused of sexual misconduct should be given a chance to publicly atone.
“I think as we get through this and the 'MeToo' movement does have a powerful effect, that we have to get also a sort of a balance where there is due process, where if people do work hard to change, there is some redemption, there is some forgiveness,” Filner said.
Orr was covering Filner’s mayoral race in 2012 and said he put her in a headlock before a press conference and made “graphic, sexual remarks” to her. She told KPBS Midday Edition it was good Filner is acknowledging the pain he caused but pushed back against the idea that Filner deserved a return to the spotlight.
“There were a lot of women that he hurt,” Orr said. “And so when I hear him and other people who have been accused, for instance, up here in Sacramento, say ‘Ok, I did my time, I’m sorry, time to let me back into the conversation,’ I think of those women and say, ‘I don’t think so.’”
Filner denied he assaulted Orr.
“It did not happen,” Filner wrote in an e-mail to KPBS.
Filner pleaded guilty in 2013 to false imprisonment and battery over allegations he sexually harassed several women, including staffers. He was sentenced to probation and three months of home confinement.
In the wake of accusations against prominent entertainers and politicians last year, Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette said Filner tried to forcibly kiss her in an elevator when they were both serving in Congress.
Orr said she was waiting for a news conference to start in 2012 when Filner called her over, and said he had a story for her.
“He kind of puts me in headlock and sort of drags me away from where everyone else was standing,” Orr said. "And then proceeds to make pretty vulgar comments to me, on the pretense of pitching me a story about The Union-Tribune publisher at the time, Doug Manchester, who he did not like.”
Orr said she notified KPBS editors at the time about the encounter, and was told the station was already investigating harassment claims against Filner.
"Even years later the Filner story is upsetting," KPBS spokeswoman Heather Milne said. "We are proud of Katie for coming forward. We take seriously any claims of harassment by our employees, whether it happens inside our walls or outside them. It is important for women and men to continue to come forward and we reiterate this at KPBS."
Orr said she one of the reasons she was speaking publicly about Filner's assault was because she no longer covered him as a reporter.
“When it initially happened, I felt guilty to some extent that I didn’t come out and say what he had done, because of course then he went on and was elected and who knows if other women may not have been harassed,” Orr said. “But at the same time, my job as a reporter is to be objective and I was nervous about influencing the outcome of an election. So I kept my mouth shut.”