The mayor of San Diego, California, resigned on Friday amid a wave of sexual harassment complaints, issuing a blanket apology, but also decrying the “hysteria” surrounding the case.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a Democrat elected in November last year, endured weeks of calls for his resignation. Angry citizens even organized a recall effort to remove him from office.
“I apologize to all of you,” said Filner, 70, as he announced his resignation after a meeting with San Diego City Council members.
Yet Filner remained defiant.
“Not one allegation ... has ever been independently verified or proven in court. I have never sexually harassed anyone, but there’s a hysteria that has been created, that many of you helped to feed. It’s the hysteria of a lynch mob,” he said.
As part of the agreement to leave office, San Diego will pay for a joint legal defense against sexual harassment lawsuits.
“I think I let you down,” said Filner, whose last day on the job will be on Friday.
“To all the women that I offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space,” he said. “I was trying to establish personal relationships, but the combination of awkwardness and hubris led to behavior that many found offensive.”
Although 18 alleged victims have publicly accused the mayor of inappropriate behavior, only one — his former communications director, Irene McCormack — has filed a lawsuit. She is represented by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred.
Although Filner “still continues to live in his own reality and deny responsibility for the conduct which we allege in our lawsuit, the fact is that he has done what was absolutely needed. He has resigned and that is what is most important,” Allred said.
McCormack said Filner said he wanted to sleep with her, asked her to work in her underwear and said that he would marry her.
Last month, Filner admitted he had engaged in “wrong and inexcusable behavior.”