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A bad attempt at damage control somehow got worse.
The most farcical moment in the spectacle of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner addressing his sexual harassment scandal occurred a minute and 49 seconds into his prepared remarks Friday afternoon when his microphone blew out.
Filner had just announced he was going to enter two weeks of behavioral counseling following public allegations from seven women who accused him of sexual harassment and other improper behavior. Then the mic loudly popped, crackled and stopped emitting sound.
The mayor had begun by once again admitting he disrespected women and intimidated them. He apologizing to his staff, supporters, the people of San Diego and “the women I let down.” He said he needed to take action so he’d never mistreat women again.
With the mic silenced, Filner simply stood there silently, except for the occasional muttering of “testing” into the broken mic as IT staffers and television cameras scurried around. New Chief of Staff Lee Burdick was quiet, too, doing her best to look stoic by his side.
The minutes ticked by.
I shouted a question: Where was he going to go to rehab? Filner didn’t turn to look. His staff members yelled out, “No questions!” Staffers motioned to one another, signaling that maybe the mayor should leave the room. Filner mumbled, “I’ll be right back,” and disappeared with Burdick into his office.
During the next five minutes, television viewers were subjected to a Hawaiian shirt-clad man, who switched out the podium and microphone and stood by while the cameras tried to coax the sound back.
The awkward clumsiness of it all recalled other Filner moments since the scandal broke two and a half weeks ago.
There was the statement released on a DVD in which Filner first denied the allegations, but also said he needed help. There were TV interviews where he admitted he was “a hugger” and had a “monster” inside of him. There was Filner, speeding away in an SUV and running a red light to escape television cameras. There was the mariachi music in the background as reporters chased after the mayor at a Barrio Logan event Thursday.
The wait for Filner’s re-emergence also allowed for plenty of time for questions to creep up about what comes next.
He said he was going away, but also once again refusing to resign. And it was unclear how Filner was going to go away. Was he going to be paid while he was in therapy? How about the fact that his two-week counseling break neatly fell into the City Council’s summer recess, meaning no legislation would be passed while he is gone? That the timing also overlaps with a scheduled deposition in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director? Or whether two weeks of counseling would help a man who engaged in “inexcusable” – Filner’s own word – behavior toward women?
A member of Filner’s security detail knocked on the door to his office. The new podium and microphone were ready. Filner and Burdick stepped out again.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Filner said. “For the sake of, I guess, those who want a clean tape I’m going to start over.”
He began to read his apology all over again.