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For Hipechik and MichelleinCal: A few criticisms of Filner’s recent TV appearances

January 17, 2011 - 9:53 am

On Friday, I appeared on Mike Slater‘s new morning political talk show on KFMB 760AM (mp3 download) to talk about, among many topics, Rep. Bob Filner’s recent appearances on national television. I’ve been fairly irritated with the Democratic Congressman, particularly after his segment on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday, when he used my reporting to politicize the Tucson shooting.

Two local conservatives on Twitter, hipechik and michelleincal, made it clear that I did not get my criticism across, so I’ve decided to add a little bit more to the narrative.  Be forewarned: I editorialize shamelessly in this blog post.

Let’s set aside the opinion held by many that Filner should have been at San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ State of the City address rather than soaking up the cable-news limelight. Last time I spoke with Filner, he put his feet up and said the mayor’s office was his for the taking. That might’ve been a joke, but it was a claim too bold for some, who also noted cynically his absence at Balboa Theatre. That’s not the source of my grief.

Instead, I’m pissed that I’ve had to spend the last few days clarifying his complete and utter miscommunication of several CityBeat stories. Almost everything Filner said on television was unclear, tenuous, or completely inaccurate. It’s as if he only skimmed our reporting or just hadn’t bothered to organize his thoughts before clipping on the microphone. He spewed all the elements onto the airwarves, with little regard to how the facts function in relationship to one another.

The last thing the country needs in a time of tragedy and confusion is another politician spinning inflammatory nonsense. That’s the worst part of it: At a time where leaders are out calling for calm and bipartisanship more than ever, Filner stirred up emotions unnecessarily by simply being sloppy with his words.

Some background:

Back on election night (November 2 seems so long ago),  Filner was swarmed by supporters of his Republican opponent, Nick Popaditch.  It got pretty ugly. You can take my word for it–I, along with three of my co-workers, was right in the middle of it—or you can watch the shocking video captured by the Chula Vista Star-News. Regardless of whether you think it was justified or not, we can all agree, it wasn’t the celebratory atmosphere Election Central is supposed to engender.

A few days after the election-night confrontation, a local white supremacist uploaded disturbing video of himself at the event and a montage of violent imagery–including AK-47s,  grenade launchers, and masked members of the IRA.  Calling himself “Aurick the Great White Elf,” he posted a call to arms, declaring that the election didn’t work and it was time to “force our government to respect our demands at gunpoint.”

CityBeat reported it, and there were no further developments in the story until the day of the Tucson shooting, when  Aurick posted this message to a white-supremacist website about Loughner:

…whatever his motive I’m sure he was justified and I am enjoying this moment because this is how a revolution begins people, and it’s funny. I’m going to celebrate!

The website deleted the post and froze his account and that’s the last we’ve heard of him.  (CityBeat can confirm that the FBI and San Diego Police Department are aware of Aurick, but both agencies have a standing policy not to disclose information in open investigations. We’ve also reported that it can take a surprisingly long time for law enforcement to track online threats to physical addresses.)

After MSNBC played the Star-News footage of election night, Filner said:

The next day, Lawrence and also right after Gabby’s shooting, there were blogs to say that clearly politics doesn’t work for us because Filner, the sneaky Jewish guy, obviously defrauded us, and we have to go to violence. And here’s some AK-47s, here’s how you do sniper work, and that was repeated a couple days ago with—then they said this is the start of the revolution, the shooting of Gabby Giffords. This not an isolated incident.

There’s not a lot that’s coherent in there. But, to be perfectly clear:

There’s no evidence of a “they,” as Filner claims. Aurick is one guy and Popaditch’s supporters seemed as shocked as anyone that he was there with them on election night. No Popaditch supporters gave instructions on sniper work and no one said the Loughner’s attack was “the start of the revolution.”

On other stations, Filner said he has been threatened. I can’t speak for any letter, email or phone threats his office may have received, but I can say CityBeat witnessed no such threats on election night. We did hear slurs on ethnicity and sexuality, plus “Bob’s a bitch,” and other profanity, we saw brief physical altercations, but nothing regarding anything close to a threat of assassination.

Filner’s attempt to establish a causal relationship between what happened to him on election night and what happened to Giffords is pretty absurd. The information emerging indicates that Loughner was not a Tea Party activist, influenced by Sarah Palin or in anyway conservative. I’ll say it again: There is no evidence of a connection between Popaditch’s campaign and the Tucson tragedy. Filner comes off sleazy spinning it so.

The Tea Party

That said, I’m not about to let the Tea Party off the hook. (I use the catch-all ‘Tea Party” for lack of a better term.)

What transpired on election night was ugly. Having lost the election, Popaditch organized his supporters into a military-like mob to intimidate Filner; the scene made the political arena of Golden Hall unpleasant for everyone, regardless of political affiliation.  If we can take anything away from the Giffords tragedy, it should be how precious it is that we live in a country where public officials can engage with voters in public. In my opinion, the position of a patriot would be to defend that civic space, to make sure it is a safe venue for all.

On election night, Popaditch could have displayed leadership by showing restraint and calming his supporters. Instead, he goaded them to the brink. One thing Filner did not get wrong in his interview is that police—namely, the mayor’s security detail—had to extract him from the mob.

It’s unclear why Popaditch and his supporters were so angry. Popaditch himself claimed it was because Filner smeared him in a television ad. If that’s the case, then Popaditch doesn’t have thick enough to skin to run for office; the ad was piddling compared to the mud Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown, Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer were slinging. Some of his volunteers said it was because Filner avoided debates. Big deal. Rep. Darrell Issa refused to debate his Democratic opponent at all, while Rep. Duncan D. Hunter’s Democratic and Libertarian challengers went on an 11-day hunger strike to force the Republican to debate. Other Tea Partiers were angry with Filner’s vote on health care reform, his unwavering sympathy for undocumented immigrants, and the fact that he has no problem earmarking pork for his district. (I recommend that Popaditch’s supporters read SDRostra’s account of how Popaditch dropped the ball with his NRA endorsement.)

The fact remains, that while Popaditch lost, Republicans won big nationwide and locally, and they could’ve, should’ve been celebrating.

The insertion of Aurick, the white supremacist, complicates the story. Here’s how he interpreted Popaditch’s supporters’ behavior

Bob Filner was terrrified of us we outnumbered his paid support staff. He ran like a coward through the hall last night and refused to talk with Popaditch. We cornered him up against a poll and shouted at him but I could get all of that on video but you’ll see we’re running and very excited at one point that was the best part to see Filner’s fear and even the cops were afraid of us! At several times there were minor fights between Nick’s supporters and the paid staff of Filner.

One man said this is just the begining. Yes, I say its the begining of a rebellion! I make a comparative look at simmilar rebellions of the past.

I ask you what is left to us when politics fails?

Popaditch’s supporters say they didn’t know this guy and the evidence so far indicates that he was hanging out on the fringe of the campaign and the Tea Party movement. They say the left shouldn’t hold them responsible, since they can’t run a background check on every individual who shows up at a rally. That’s probably true (though, in an March interview Popaditch said he was aware of the element and the need for both sides to police their ranks).

But I think we need to move beyond blame. If we take Aurick at his word, he has reached the point where he believes the time has come to “force our government to respect our demands at gunpoint.” Regardless of whether you’re Republican or Democrat, this should concern you. As House Speaker John Boehner said:

An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.

The big remaining question is whether Aurick posed a threat on election night. If so, then everyone—especially Gunny’s Corps—could have been in danger.  Another lesson we can learn from Loughner is collateral damage; while Giffords was his target, six others paid the ultimate price.

I would hope that Popaditch’s supporters would take a look a the video, read his words, and ask themselves whether their actions encouraged a potentially dangerous individual. I hope that next time, they will take that into consideration when crafting their ground-game strategy.

I’d also ask the Tea Party to open themselves to the possibility of finding common ground, and understand they may make bigger strides with a thoughtful, clear message rather than expressing their frustration only in terms of rage and volume. One of my favorite bloggers right now is B-Daddy, the “Unofficial Chief Ideologist of the San Diego County Tea Party movement.” We may fall on different sides of the political spectrum, but we can engage in smart discourse and agree on holding our politicians accountable

I realize being open is difficult when Filner’s out there unfairly vilifying his opponents, politicizing the Tucson tragedy and spreading garbled information. The left jumped to conclusions far too quickly and progressives must remember that Republicans are also worried and Tea Party leaders too receiving threats.  All of this needs to stop before it gets worse.

I hope this blog post indicates to hipechick and michelleincal that at least I’m willing to engage in dialogue. I acknowledge the value in a country where there is a multitude of voices, a wide spectrum of thought. That’s how we balance out. But just give it to me straight. I think ‘tude is fine, but there’s no need to shout.


(For the record, I’m not registered to any political party. The only reason I’m editorializing here is because I believe this has little do with any political position–only behavior, public safety, the facts of one of my stories and how we communicate. To tell you the truth, it makes me a little uncomfortable to put my personal feelings out here, but hey, I promised.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 18, 2011 - 11:39 am 11:39 am

    Teri Peters, aka HipEChik on Twitter, emailed me these comments. Please read them:

    First, thank you Dave for clarifying much misinformation. Second, thank you for dedicating this post to Michelle and me. We are both not only avid Popaditch supporters but truth seekers. For the record, the below are my words and my perceptions of events.

    Bob Filner has gotten away with so much, and Dave has called him on some of it in this post. I’ll try to be brief, we shall see how that works out. Oddly, I have heard similar rumblings about Filner thinking that the San Diego Mayoral race was “his for the taking.” We shall see how that works out also.

    I have a few points that I would like to clarify, but essentially, I am good with Dave’s piece. He correctly points out “Almost everything Filner said on television was unclear, tenuous, or completely inaccurate.” I concur. Additionally, I was there on election night and I also did not hear any threats. In this U.T. piece, Bob Filner claims “On Election night, a group of people “threatened me with assassination.” We were both there on election night. We have both reviewed the videos. No one has heard nor seen a threat yet only hours after the Arizona tragedy Filner was talking to the press and capitalizing on it.

    As a volunteer with the Popaditch campaign I was privy to some details, though not all, about the campaign. I have gained more facts since Election Day. Nonetheless, I am not going to split hairs. Maass’ assessment of many issues is accurate based on the knowledge he likely has.

    I won’t go into the NRA endorsement, which does have a story, but it’s not my story to tell. I won’t find fault with the usage of the word “teapartiers” because Maass qualified it with “for lack of a better word”. I will say that I know of only one person close to the campaign that actually belongs to a tea party organization. I personally have been to one, where I had a press pass and shot pictures.

    Oddly enough, this was where my husband caught sight of “Aurick” the white supremacist. I did not see him. Nor did I see him at any campaign events until election night. None of the folks within the Popaditch camp have either and records have been checked. Had Nick Popaditch known that there was an extremist amongst us; had any of us known, the authorities would have been notified immediately.

    Further regarding election night, perhaps things could have been different. Maass states “ it is unclear why we were so angry.” I will get into that a bit later. Know this though; there was no concerted effort to get in Filner’s face; not by Nick Popaditch or anyone else. This was a grass roots team of Filner’s constituents who never have access to their congressman. Filner seems fixated on the fact that so many San Diegan’s travelled to the Imperial Valley to hear the debate. In fact he has said that Popaditch “drug his supporters” there. In fact we willingly drove the two hours to and from the valley because Bob Filner absolutely refused to debate in San Diego. The same anger prevailed on election night as Filner did put out a mis-leading ad about Nick’s voting record.

    What Nick Popaditch did on election night was call Filner a liar. He most assuredly did not, as Maass incorrectly says: “organized his supporters into a military-like mob to intimidate Filner”. This is the only absolute incorrect statement in the piece. We had been following Nick around all evening. Everything the supporters did that evening was of our own volition. Was it intimidating to Filner? Maybe. Was it dangerous? As one with an acute sense of danger and excellent instincts I thought not. No stranger to assisting a political campaign, my first thought was “we are being filmed and they will use this.” I assessed the situation and saw one tall blonde man yelling at Bob Filner. His sign was getting nearer to Filner’s face. At that point, and no the film does not show this, me and another supporter tapped the man on the shoulder and told him to back off. He did so immediately. My only fear was that a sign would accidentally hit Bob Filner in the face. It was at that point that Filner was escorted out. That was my perception of the “danger” at the time. Since the Union Tribune piece, cited above, came out, I have had a bit of a different view. IF someone did threaten Bob Filner with assassination then we were all in mortal danger. Given the tragic events in Tuscon last week, I think this ought to be fleshed out. My guess is that Filner is lying. If not, I, as his constituent have a right to know. All of us that were at election central have a right to know. This, I will not let go of.

    Additionally, I would point out that it is impossible for a grass roots campaign to control who picks up and is photographed with one of their signs. This is a point to ponder though. We are more acutely aware of whom we are photographed with, and whether or not we know them. Even as recently as Saturday at the Mt. Soledad gathering I was watching to see who was “hanging around” Nick and his family. Did we know them? In one case, I did not and I took down the man’s license plate number.

    To the point that Nick has “thin skin” I would say that it is thick enough to take a grenade to the head and live to run for Congress. I get Dave’s point though. It must be difficult for a man of such high honor and one who ran a squeaky clean campaign to be mis-represented as a non voter in expensive Super Bowl ads by Filner. We never had the time to fully run down his voting record but I will say that it may have further incensed Nick because he happened to be fighting for our Country during some of those years. Filner as the then Chair of the Veterans affairs committee took a cheap shot at one of those he is supposed to be an advocate of. That said, this was all Filner could find on Nick, and it is, in my opinion, a small thing. We took the high road and didn’t come out with Filner’s sketchy past which is up on google for all to see. Others, not affiliated with the campaign, did speak up on some of Filner’s past and, of course Filner blamed Nick. Hey, its politics right? Never mind the truth Bob Filner. You are Prince Filner and no one dare challenge you even if it is the truth.

    I hope this closes the chapter on Bob Filner capitalizing on a tragedy, but I won’t hold my breath. Am I still pissed off? Yes, but only because I am stuck with a Congressman who is inaccessible to his constituents and is a far left ideologue who continuously lies when challenged. As stated, I am not letting the “assassination attempt” allegation go. Words do matter. This applies even to Congressman Filner. In summation, I think Maas did a good job of getting the truth out. Thank you again Dave. Thanks also to my friend Michelle. We seem to have a way of getting to the truth together~! Additionally, thank you to Mike Slater for, in a round about way, enabling this dialogue. Yes, reasonable people can disagree without being disagreeable. I applaud Dave Maass who has written a fair piece and set much of the record straight.

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