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It’s the lies, stupid!

Newsom indiscretions were allowed to fester

Mayor Gavin Newsom at John O’Connell High School earlier today.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

January 31, 2007 11:00 p.m.

By Daniela Kirshenbaum and Luke Thomas

Is the game of chicken finally drawing to a close?

For months, nobody in the San Francisco media reported on the steady stream of rumors coming from the mayor's office. Until tonight, nobody would print anything on Newsom's affair with his aide, Ruby Tourk -- not until her husband, Alex, who also worked for the mayor, resigned today in an extraordinarily abrupt fashion.

Ruby Tourk

So what do we do with the other rumors? About a pregnancy that went away? About a sexual harassment lawsuit that is supposed to be filed? About the attorney who is supposed to be talking Ms. Tourk out of filing it?

What is "responsible" journalism, in this case? To whom should it be responsible? The mayor? His lawyers, maybe? To Mr. Tourk, one of the mayor's best friends, now a public cuckold?

Our responsibility, of course, is to the reader. This many rumors, this consistently, were distracting enough for us - how about for the mayor and his officials?

Sure, we believe everybody has the right to engage in the sexual behavior of their desire. But that desire has to be mutual. And it better not interfere with the job we elected you to carry out.

We concluded that the force and consistency of these rumors put them in the realm of the public's interest.

We are left with three whopping concerns:

First, we are disgusted that we were lied to and misled on this issue by the mayor's office and campaign team, and then treated with such disdain. Talk about poor press relations!

Secondly, rumors about the affair turned out to be true; it leads us to believe rumors about the threatened sexual harassment lawsuit are true, too. Why should we believe those same mayoral minions again?

Thirdly, our same well-placed sources have told us that the mayor's circle is in full damage control mode, and that is why Ms. Tourk hasn't filed that lawsuit. Steven Kay, is it time to build your credibility by coming clean? Why are we hearing your name attached to that effort?

To summarize one of the main lessons from the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings: You lose your credibility by waiting to speak up.

Ms. Tourk, do your thing and get it over with. Please. So we can all move on. Would your lawsuit be revenge for a botched love affair, or true harassment? This is a lot bigger than the fire chief whacking her husband on the head with a shot glass. It's the cover-up of this whole mess that's what's shocking. It's why Willie Brown's little girl with Carolyn Carpineti didn't bother us: nobody lost a job, and Willie was wide open about it. Compare that with Bill Clinton - and the rest of us - who would have been far better off had he just admitted to getting frisky with Monica.

We've tried to be respectful of the lofty office of Mayor. We have been tactful about the youthful cleaving towards the myth of Kennedy's Camelot, and about the remarkable sensitivity of the mayor to any criticism whatsoever.

But we aren't alone in resenting the deep freeze treatment one gets from Room 200 if there is any hint of disloyalty. We don't like blind loyalty; we prefer healthy argument. It's good for a city.

The biggest irony of all may be the giant betrayal of Alex Tourk by the loyalty-happy Newsom.

And before the mayor's gang gets spiteful about this coverage, they should know that even the mayor's political enemies have been absolutely silent on this for ages. Yes, even those guys. Even us. But Mr. Tourk's terse resignation statement was simply too much.

Former Newsom's Deputy Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager Alex Tourk

Fortunately, all of us at Fog City are penniless. Suing us won't get you a dime. So maybe it's time for us to speak up, too, and encourage that healthy argument.




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