At last count, 16 women have accused Bob Filner, the Mayor of San Diego, of inappropriate sexual behavior. They and others want him recalled.
San Diego is my hometown so I care about this issue. But as I look at these issues from France, I can't but help wonder if we have thrown out the baby with the bath water.
Donna Frye, a former city council member and Filner's appointed Director of Open Government, rang the alarm when she held a press conference and said three women accused Filner of touching and talking to them inappropriately. Frye said she warned him but went public when the behavior continued.
Following this at least a dozen other women came forth with similar stories. I know some of these women very well and know they didn't do this lightly.
Some people have stood by Filner. Former city officials, San Diego veterans, members of the Chicano community, campaign workers and women have continued to support him. They demand that he be given a fair hearing and not be tried in the media.
Now his political opponents are circling. The big developers are gleeful that he has self-destructed. Even prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein have called for his resignation. A lawsuit has been filed.
In the meantime, Filner is completing a sexual harassment course. Mediation meetings are taking place between him, council members, lawyers and other interested parties. The issue of his resignation is still unresolved.
As I sit here in Paris, I've talked by phone and email with friends in San Diego. Over coffee and wine I've also discussed Filner with my French friends and Americans who have lived in France for numerous years. Their conclusions are vastly different.
Many friends in San Diego are proud that affected women have come forth but are embarrassed by the tawdry image it gives to our city. They want Filner recalled. Friends in France are bemused and perplexed.
In the land of DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), who was accused of raping a maid in a New York City hotel, all of this seems a bit blown out of proportion. France is a country where Mitterrand, their former president, had two families, both of whom attended his funeral.
When France elected Hollande, their current president, they knew he was living with his girlfriend. She now travels with him on official business and lives in the Élysée Palace, which is the French equivalent of the White House.
Would Americans have done the same?
French women are tired of sexual advances in the workplace. Many have spoken out against it. Still, some shrug when reading about San Diego.
"But he didn't rape anyone." "All he did was talk suggestively, kiss their cheeks and touch their bodies a little." "Yes, it is not nice for him to suggest having dinner or a sexual favor when women are asking him for help." "Men are just little boys. They need to be spanked occasionally."
Then, as one French woman said dismissively, "Yes, he's a cad. He's inappropriate. But, he didn't even get his finger wet."
Filner may not have gotten his finger wet, but he did drown his career, permanently damage his legacy and embarrass his city. And on a personal note, he seriously disappointed this long time supporter.
Unfortunately, the big developers and their cronies will probably be back in the driver's seat. Was all of this worth that?
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