A social media campaign attacking gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom for an old affair, and subsequent romantic relationship with a 19-year-old when he was 39 is seeking to raise moral and ethical questions about the former San Francisco mayor before the June 5 primary.
An anti-Newsom independent campaign committee, which in the past has supported Democratic rival and state Treasurer John Chiang, has purchased a California-wide advertisement buy to draw attention to Newsom’s behavior more than a decade ago.
Operators behind the Asian American Small Business political action committee, running the independent expenditure campaign, confirmed to The Sacramento Bee that it is funding ads on social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram, that include posting links to old articles about Newsom's past.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
One paid Facebook asks. "Do you think it was inappropriate for Newsom to have a relationship with a subordinate staff member suffering from substance dependency?"
Another says, "We know Gavin Newsom dated a woman 20 years his junior and awarded catastrophic illness pay to a former mistress, but did you know he doesn't like to work unless his job is powerful and glamorous?"
One posted on Instagram asks "Do you question Newsom's judgment in engaging in a relationship with a 19-year-old woman who accompanied him to a formal public event and was photographed with an alcoholic beverage in her hand?"
It's true Newsom had an affair with a subordinate while he was mayor. He publicly admitted it and apologized at a press conference at San Francisco City Hall in 2007. He apologized again last week, saying "I was honest about it. I was open about it. I apologized for it. I was wrong."
The woman, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, was Newsom's appointments secretary and at the time was married to his former campaign manager and best friend, Alex Tourk. She later divorced, remarried and took the last name Rippey-Gibney.
Though she reported to Newsom, Rippey-Gibney said this year that the affair was consensual and said she is "doubtful" that the issues raised by the #MeToo movement apply to the affair.
Rippey-Gibney said at the time, in 2006, that she suffered from substance abuse problems, including with alcohol, and a former spokesman told reporters that she'd attended a rehabilitation program. She left her government job and later was granted approval for a sick leave program intended for city employees and their family members suffering from catastrophic illnesses. Her participation in the program came with a roughly $10,000 retroactive payment, according to a 2007 investigative report by the office of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
Newsom, as a single man, dated a 19-year-old named Brittanie Mountz in 2006.
Mountz at the time was a model and restaurant hostess. News articles at the time reported that Mountz had turned 20 when she and Newsom were engaged in a romantic relationship. A photograph on the San Francisco Chronicle website allegedly showing Mountz with an alcoholic beverage in her hand has since been taken down.
Former Newsom spokesman Peter Ragone told The Chronicle that he "never provided Mountz with any alcohol, and if she ever had a drink in his presence, that's news to the mayor."
The criticism that he "doesn't like to work" is a stretch. It stems from an article in the Los Angeles Times that found Newsom has a poor attendance record on boards on which he sits as lieutenant governor. It said he attended 54 percent of UC Regents meetings, 34 percent for California State University and 57 percent for the State Lands Commission. The same story said his attendance record was in line with that of other elected officials on the boards. And it quoted others saying he was engaged with the most important business conducted by the boards.