Friday afternoon, on national television, less than a month before one of the most competitive and expensive elections in the country, an ex-staffer of Carl DeMaio told CNN that DeMaio had called him into his office and masturbated in front of him.
That wasn’t all. The former staffer, Todd Bosnich, said that DeMaio massaged and kissed his neck and touched him inappropriately in separate incidents over a period of months. And when Bosnich, who is gay, told DeMaio to stop harassing him, Bosnich said DeMaio’s campaign manager fired him and offered him $50,000 to keep quiet.
The outlines of these accusations had been in the news since Wednesday. But Friday, Bosnich delivered the lascivious details of the allegations against DeMaio, who is running for Congress, for the first time and on CNN’s cameras.
Since Wednesday, and again in the CNN story, DeMaio, who is also gay, unequivocally denied he sexually harassed Bosnich and offered a competing narrative for why Bosnich dropped this bomb. DeMaio said he fired Bosnich for a well-known plagiarism incident earlier this year and that Bosnich is the prime suspect in the burglary of DeMaio’s campaign office, which occurred in May soon after Bosnich was fired.
“It’s unfortunate. He’s clearly troubled. He got caught for the damage that he did to the campaign and now he’s manufacturing in essence a cover story to explain away his actions,” DeMaio told CNN.
Bosnich denied to CNN that he was involved in the break-in and said DeMaio was the main author of the plagiarized report. No one has been charged in the burglary.
There’s a lot to try to make sense of here. We’re going to break down four key points.
This Is Different Than Bob Filner
DeMaio lost the 2012 mayoral election to Bob Filner, who imploded after less than a year in office following numerous sexual harassment complaints.
There’s been a lot of effort to draw parallels between what is happening to DeMaio and what happened to Filner last year. One of the biggest differences, however, is how they responded.
Filner never directly denied the charges against him. In fact, the first statement he made before any woman actually stepped forward with detailed allegations was “I’m sorry.” His response was, in a way, the most damning evidence. It was always something along the lines of: They won’t be able to prove I sexually harassed anyone.
But it was never, “I did not do what they said and I would never do that.”
That’s different in this case – both sides are digging in their heels on their very different version of events. DeMaio is calling Bosnich a liar, and provides a motive for why he’d make it up.
But Like Filner, DeMaio Has a Reputation of Treating His Staff Badly
Aside from the sexual harassment problems, Filner had a lengthy reputation of treating his employees poorly. Filner’s former chief of staff called him vicious and dehumanizing.
DeMaio also has a reputation as a bully – something we can attest to in times that we’ve been critical of him.
DeMaio’s alienated some of his closest former staffers, those who helped him almost reach the mayor’s office in 2012. He’s no longer communicating with his former chief of staff on City Council, someone he’d known since high school.
Few of DeMaio’s longtime political allies are working with him in this congressional race, and some are actively speaking out against him.
Now, as DeMaio is facing allegations that he sexually harassed a staffer – his biggest political crisis – he’s left to weather the storm without the people who have been part of his team for so many years.
The Other DeMaio Masturbation Episode Has Resurfaced, But a Key Witness Still Denies it Happened
Last year, state Sen. Ben Hueso told the Voice of OC (which has no relationship with VOSD) that he had seen DeMaio masturbating in a restroom near the City Council chambers. Also included in Hueso’s account was that former City Council President Tony Young had also witnessed DeMaio’s behavior – but Young himself didn’t talk with Voice of OC.
When the U-T confronted Hueso, he stood his ground. CNN dredged up that allegation again Friday.
Importantly, Young denied this after it first became news. He reaffirmed that denial to us Friday afternoon. He did not see anything, he said.
What About Law Enforcement?
A major part of DeMaio’s defense is that law enforcement is on his side. DeMaio said Wednesday that SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman called him personally in August to tell him Bosnich’s sexual harassment complaints were without merit. DeMaio also said that the burglary case against Bosnich was on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ desk, and he expected him to be held accountable for the crime.
But neither SDPD nor the DA’s office will confirm any of that. Zimmerman and Dumanis, who is a political ally of DeMaio, both declined to comment on his claims when I tried to ask them about it Thursday evening. Spokesmen for the pair said they had nothing to add again Friday after the CNN report aired.
Prosecutions, or the lack thereof, in both cases remain the biggest shoes to drop in this scandal.
Scott Lewis contributed to this report.