Capitol Alert

Ad misleads on romantic affairs of Newsom, Villaraigosa

Ad blasts Villaraigosa, Newsom for affairs

A political ad from an independent campaign supporting Republican John Cox for governor compares affairs acknowledged by Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa with several alleged sexual harassers.
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A political ad from an independent campaign supporting Republican John Cox for governor compares affairs acknowledged by Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa with several alleged sexual harassers.

An independent campaign committee supporting Republican businessman John Cox in the state's gubernatorial race has launched a television advertisement playing off the #MeToo movement by comparing Democratic candidates Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa with high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.

The ad, airing on conservative-leaning Fox News in five media markets, attacks Newsom and Villaraigosa for their past sexual affairs as images scroll across the screen of former filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, talk show host Charlie Rose, news anchor Matt Lauer, the deceased Fox News executive Roger Ailes, businessman Steve Wynn former Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

The Script

Powerful men are finally being held to account, punished for inappropriate sexual conduct with women over whom they exercise power.

Gavin Newsom had such a sexual relationship with a woman on his mayoral staff. Antonio Villaraigosa did the same, with a reporter assigned to cover him.

Newsom and Villaraigosa think the rules shouldn't apply to them. They don't want punishment, they want a promotion.

Californians deserve better. John Cox for governor.

Analysis

Newsom and Villaraigosa both admitted during their first mayoral terms to having affairs, and both publicly apologized. But it is misleading to equate consensual romantic relationships with allegations against other powerful men who have been accused in numerous cases of serial sexual harassment and misconduct.

Newsom in 2007 explained his affair as an alcohol-fueled mistake. He'd had a romantic relationship with a subordinate who worked under him in San Francisco City Hall, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, now remarried as Ruby Rippey-Gibney. She worked as his appointments secretary and was the wife of his best friend and campaign manager, Alex Tourk. She left her position in the mayor's office before the affair was made public.

Tourk and Rippey-Gibney divorced after the scandal broke. She has not made any allegations against Newsom and wrote in a February Facebook post that he should be absolved from recurring accusations of workplace harassment.

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Newsom at the time characterized the affair as a personal matter, though some criticized him for sleeping with a subordinate. Allegations launched in newspaper articles and online blogs charged that the affair interfered with public business after it was discovered that Rippey-Gibney's husband had signed her time cards. She later received a roughly $10,000 payment in taxpayer money for sick leave under a program intended for city employees with catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses.

Rippey-Gibney was given approval by the former director of San Francisco's public health department, Mitch Katz, according to documents received by The Sacramento Bee. She was granted approval for her substance abuse problems – a rare qualification. (Katz is a close adviser to Newsom on health care.)

A 2007 investigation by the city attorney's office found no one other than Rippey-Gibbey had been allowed to receive sick leave payments for substance abuse alone, and there were cases in which city employees were denied participation in the program for substance abuse unaccompanied by a life-threatening illness. The investigation cleared Newsom of any wrongdoing.

He addressed the scandal in a recent interview with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, saying he learned from the affair and has overcome his own past problems with alcohol.

Villaraigosa's 2007 extramarital affair was with former Telemundo television reporter Mirthala Salinas. She did not report to him in any way. It is also unethical and inappropriate for a reporter to have sexual or romantic relationships with politicians they cover or any news source. Salinas was suspended, then reassigned after the affair. She later resigned.

Salinas has not made public allegations against Villraigosa regarding their past relationship.

Villaraigosa and his former wife, Corina Villaraigosa, divorced in the aftermath of the scandal.

The pro-Cox ad does not mention Republican Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, who was named earlier this year in the Legislature's release sexual harassment investigative records on allegations it deemed substantiated. He was accused of harassment for allegedly making unwanted advances on a female legislative employee, including squeezing her shoulders.

Allen has called the accusations a "political attack," saying his behavior was not inappropriate.

Gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke to the Sacramento Bee about the sex scandals that troubled their time as mayors ahead of the primary next month.

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