San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said Friday he will undergo “intensive therapy” amid growing calls that he resign because of sexual harassment charges from several women, including former staffers.
Filner said he will check into a “behavior counseling clinic” on Aug. 5 for two weeks of therapy and return full time to his job on Aug. 19.
“I am responsible for my conduct,” Filner said at San Diego City Hall. “This intensive counseling will just be the first step … I must become a better person. My hope is by becoming a better person, I can put myself in the position to someday be forgiven.”
“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,” the mayor said.
“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 spent my whole professional life doing: fighting for equality and justice for all people.”
Filner took no questions after reading his statement, which had been halted when there were audio difficulties. He returned to finish his text.
Seven women have come forward accusing Filner of what has been described as “truly reprehensible” behavior including groping and sexually charged remarks. He is a former member of Congress and the first Democrat in 20 years to be elected mayor of San Diego, the second-most populous city in California.
Filner’s comments Friday were the most extensive since he taped a statement on July 11 saying he had engaged in “inappropriate and wrong” behavior toward women.
“I am also humbled to admit that I need help,” he said then.
Since the July 11 statement, more women have come forward. Irene McCormack Jackson, his former communication director, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit. this week. Filner has said he not believe the lawsuit’s claims were valid and vowed to “vigorously” defend himself against the charges.
As calls for Filner’s resignation have grown in San Diego, so has the outcry from his former colleagues in Washington. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the behavior of Filner and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, an ex-congressman embroiled in a sexting scandal, is “reprehensible.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, on Friday called on Filner to resign “for the good of the city,” adding that she was “personally offended” by his “indefensible” actions. Thursday night, the local Democratic Party committee and the influential San Diego LGBT Community Center’s board have also called for the mayor to step down.
Filner’s decision to get therapy was overdue and “absolutely the first step he needs to take because he needs to get this help,” San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby told U-T San Diego.
She added that the move could ease the pressure to resign.
“I now need to see if Democrats want to give him a chance or if they and the people of San Diego would still like him to step down,” she said.
Busby told CNN the decision “doesn’t erase what he’s done” and “doesn’t erase the charges against him or the legal liability, but the ball’s in his court.”
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Contributing: Michael Winter, from San Francisco.