Photo by Sam Hodgson
On Friday, we published a Fact Check of mayoral candidate Bob Filner that criticized him for repeating the same claim that we rated Misleading seven months ago.
But we made a mistake.
We based the story on an online video we saw supporting Filner’s candidacy. It featured Filner saying that he’d written the development plan that transformed the downtown Gaslamp Quarter into the commercial and tourist hub it is today.
Since the video was posted May 9, we assumed Filner had made the claim recently and repeated what we had already determined was misleading. Those assumptions were unfounded.
Back in October, those familiar with the development plan said the historical record didn’t back up Filner’s story. Years before he became involved in the project through the City Council, others had already pushed the plan forward.
In the new video, Filner said he had spearheaded and written the development plan. We published a story Friday with links to the video and our previous Fact Check. Again, we rated Filner’s claim Misleading.
However, we failed to prove that Filner made that second claim after our original fact check.
Readers urged us to reexamine this issue over the weekend and today, we were able to contact the video’s publisher, who uses the pseudonym Weak Republicans. We reached out to the publisher through Twitter and he called us back.
The man behind the pseudonym refused to provide his name, though he said he lives in Point Loma and is not affiliated with Filner’s campaign. He said he supports Filner for mayor and produces videos as a personal hobby.
The man said he didn’t know exactly when Filner made the claim included in his video, but he said all the recordings are from more than six months ago. If that’s the case, it is possible that Filner made the claim before or shortly after our first Fact Check.
The video was still distributing a claim that had already been proven to be Misleading. But our story suggested that Filner had made the claim recently and we have no proof of that.
We don’t know when the recording was taken. And we haven’t heard Filner make the exact claim again.
In October, Filner said, “I wrote the Gaslamp plan. The Gaslamp went from zero to an incredible, lively thing because we had a focused program of investment and neighborhood input.”
More recently, Filner has backed away from saying he wrote the plan. That shift was part of the reason why we found the new video unusual and worth highlighting.
During an April 28 debate hosted by KPBS, for example, Filner said, “I was the one responsible for pushing through the Gaslamp Plan.” In an editorial published by U-T San Diego on May 5, Filner wrote, “I played an instrumental role in creating the now-vibrant Gaslamp district.”
After we published our Fact Check on Friday, the anonymous publisher took down his video supporting Filner. He said he didn’t want to spread inaccurate claims in his work.
“Bob Filner has no idea who I am. I’m responsible for it,” he said. “That’s my bad. He didn’t do it.”
We also apologize for the mistake.
Below is the original Fact Check post.
Statement: “I also spearheaded what we call the Gaslamp Development Plan downtown,” Congressman and mayoral candidate Bob Filner said in a campaign video posted online May 9. Determination: Misleading Analysis: When Bob Filner claimed seven months ago that he wrote the plan credited with revitalizing the Gaslamp Quarter, we fact checked his assertion and found it Misleading. Now, seven months later, Filner continues to make the same claim — and it’s still Misleading. The latest instance came in a new campaign video. Talking about his time on the City Council from 1987 to 1992, Filner said:
I also spearheaded what we call the Gaslamp Development Plan downtown. There was nothing there when I was elected to the school board, and we decided no, let’s have a vibrant downtown with culture, with restaurants, with things to do. So we wrote the Gaslamp Community Plan and if you go downtown today, it’s one of the most vibrant places in the city.
Revitalizing the Gaslamp is one of San Diego’s most heralded accomplishments. The area used to be full of saloons, gambling dens and illicit activities. Now the commercial and tourism industries pump millions into city coffers. Filner claims to be responsible for that transformation (as a councilman, not a school board member). But we examined the assertion in October last year and found the historical record doesn’t back up his claim. People involved with the revitalization plan said it was crafted years before Filner became a participant on the City Council. We wrote:
Our definition of a misleading statement is one that takes an element of truth and badly distorts it or exaggerates it giving a deceptive impression. It fits here.
In this case, the element of truth is that Filner represented downtown and was involved in the process of merging Gaslamp redevelopment with other neighborhoods and expanding redevelopment into East Village. But there are two key distortions that give a deceptive impression to his statement. A Gaslamp revitalization plan was in place almost a decade before Filner came into office. There’s no evidence he was anything more than an active participant in a plan that continued Gaslamp redevelopment while he was a councilman. In short, others had laid the groundwork for Gaslamp revitalization and redevelopment years before Filner was elected to the council. Our conclusion has not changed. Filner’s claim is still Misleading.
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