By Ken Stone
On his KOGO radio show Tuesday afternoon, Carl DeMaio promised to “spill a little beans on the inside story” of the sex-assault lawsuit filed Monday against Kevin Beiser.
The former San Diego councilman said he knew the accuser’s identity (but wouldn’t reveal it). He also said “a couple other people” were prepared to come forward with allegations against the San Diego Unified school board member.
And he said that his partner [Johnathan Hale] began referring to Beiser in 2010 as “Mr. Creeper” for trying to kiss Hale on the lips. (DeMaio added: “Beiser tried kissing me on my cheek. I don’t kiss, OK?”)
Finally, DeMaio said: “Oh! And a liberal blog news site has held [up] this story in San Diego. They’re claiming today: ‘We were just trying to get the information right. We were trying to get the sourcing tightened up.'”
About 90 minutes after those remarks — at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday — Voice of San Diego posted Andrew Keatts’ blockbuster report saying four young men alleged sexual misconduct by Beiser.
How did DeMaio know a story was coming — which turbocharged calls for Beiser’s resignation?
DeMaio didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Neither has DeMaio addressed questions about his Tuesday tweet in which he alleged that Democrats knew of the allegations for a “LONG time” and “a local liberal media outlet had this story and sat on it.”
Interesting facts about the Kevin Beiser scandal: Fact 1: Democrats knew of these allegations for a LONG time. Fact 2: Democrats don’t want Beiser to run for City Council and decided to “remove” him this way. Fact 3: A local liberal media outlet had this story and sat on it.
— Carl DeMaio (@carldemaio) March 20, 2019
DeMaio didn’t specify the media outlet, but last June (in his “winners & losers” essay after the state primary), he labeled Voice of San Diego and KPBS “left-wing media outlets.”
DeMaio wasn’t alone in accusing Democrats of a conspiracy of silence and then piling on Beiser — supposedly to keep him from running for San Diego City Council.
In a tweet, San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric said former Mayor Bob Filner and ex-county Supervisor Dave Roberts “turned out to be leches.” Krvaric asked local Democrats: “How many of them knew already and when did they know it?”
After @SanDiegoDems‘ Bob Filer and Dave Roberts turned out to be leches, a resolution calling on @KevinBeiser to resign passes 58 to 4. How many of them knew already and when did they know it, starting with @ToddGloria and @LorenaSGonzalez? cc: @sdut @voiceofsandiego @kusi_news pic.twitter.com/jgyZa1FG5d
— Tony Krvaric (@TonyKrvaric) March 20, 2019
Krvaric didn’t respond to a Times of San Diego request for comment.
Now Keatts, Voice assistant editor and senior investigative reporter, has shared new details of how he researched the 4,100-word Beiser story and why it appeared when it did.
Keatts went beyond the story’s brief description of how Democratic political consultant Eva Posner organized the group of accusers to meet with him.
It was Feb. 5, Posner said Thursday, that she brought the four to Keatts (including one who didn’t want to be identified and later filed suit).
But it took interviews with more than a dozen sources, he said, before the investigation was ready for a key step — talking to Beiser.
“I was going to reach out Monday morning to Kevin and say: ‘Can we schedule a time to meet this week? And I’d lay out for you everything I have,'” said Keatts, last year’s local SPJ Journalist of the Year.
Instead, after learning Sunday of an impending lawsuit against Beiser, Keatts contacted Beiser that night.
“I informed him that I spoke to four individuals who had made accusations against him,” he said, but got no immediate response. Keatts didn’t mention the possible lawsuit.
It wasn’t until 12:52 p.m. Monday that Beiser responded via email and text, telling Keatts that he would “like a full written summary of every allegation against him.”
Keatts says he sent Beiser the compilation at 1:57 p.m., taking time out from reviewing hours of transcripts and writing his story.
“That was the one and only time he responded,” Keatts said. “He had that summary for over 24 hours by the time the [Voice] story published…. I contacted him 10 times, including a visit to his house.”
In a media statement Tuesday afternoon, Beiser said: “We were first made aware of these allegations less than 24 hours ago. There is no truth to these allegations. We believe they are politically motivated and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves.”
Beiser didn’t make clear whether “these allegations” were the ones in the lawsuit or the Voice story.
Keatts says he didn’t see the lawsuit until just after 6 p.m. Monday. He sent Beiser email at 6:22 p.m.
Just after 11 p.m. Monday, The San Diego Union-Tribune was the first to report the “John Doe” suit. Keatts didn’t receive Beiser’s media statement until 6:19 p.m. Tuesday.
Scott Lewis, Voice editor in chief, denied any Democratic influence on the timing of the story.
“It was a very hard story with sensitive, explosive accusations,” Lewis said. “Andy worked it methodically and carefully, as he should. When one of the accusers decided to bring a lawsuit and that made its way to the U-T, that obviously gave us urgency to make sure the public had all the facts.”
Research on the story was about 95 percent done Monday when Keatts began writing it, he says.
“We didn’t cut any corners,” he said, noting that he had enough information to meet Voice’s editorial standards. “It just happened a little bit faster.”
He said he’d planned to reach out to Beiser this week anyway.
“But there were other things that I felt would have added to the story, if I was able to get them,” he said in a phone interview. “And then when I heard all of a sudden that this lawsuit was coming, that became something that I could no longer wait for.”
So Monday, Keatts wrapped up work, including speaking to former San Diego County Democratic Party chair Jess Durfee.
By the time it was posted Tuesday afternoon, the story had been edited (tightened from 5,000 words, but “I didn’t leave people out”) and reviewed by Voice attorney Matthew Halgren of Sheppard Mullin.
Top editor Lewis wasn’t sure DeMaio was referencing Voice as “the liberal media outlet” that “sat” on the story but called it “ridiculous” if such were the case.
Lewis also asked: What exactly is the allegation?
“Why would Dems want Kevin not to run for Council? And yes, there is a reason these men went to Andrew: They trusted him. And then we allegedly held it for … what?”
Lewis said his outlet worked hard to make sure the story was “airtight and fair,” adding: “If DeMaio is addressing us in that Tweet, he should consider asking for our perspective before making such an accusation.”
“It’s a bizarre conspiracy theory peddled by people who I can’t even imagine what they’re talking about,” he said. “It doesn’t even make sense to me on its face. What they’re describing as a cover-up I would describe as doing diligent, patient, thorough reporting.”
Posner, a former political adviser to one of the four accusers, didn’t think Voice of San Diego “sat” on the story.
“I believe Andy Keatts took his time to verify the information given to him, as any responsible reporter with such a sensitive story should,” she said via email.
The men chose Voice of San Diego, she said, “because they specialize in investigative reporting and we knew that the accusations would need thorough investigating in order to be taken seriously.”
She said the men put a lot on the line.
“Voice’s unique funding mechanism allows them to take more time than other outlets are generally granted with stories,” she said. “We wanted to ensure that time was spent getting every detail right.”
As for the claim that Democrats long knew about Beiser’s alleged misconduct, Posner said: “It is absolutely true that there were rumors circulating for months around Mr. Beiser and inappropriate behavior. That knowledge appears in the Voice of San Diego story.
“However, action cannot and should not be taken by the party or party leadership based on rumor alone. That would be irresponsible and would allow for political manipulation of survivors which is unfair to everyone involved. Once the accounts were made public, the San Diego County Democratic Party and elected leaders acted swiftly to stand with survivors.”
She added: “The party has made great strides in our approach to handling sexual assault allegations, and I am proud and grateful for the evolution that has taken place in the last few years.”Posner doesn’t cheer DeMaio, however.
“Carl DeMaio should be more careful spinning conspiracy theories around the ‘liberal media.’ Trumpian tactics like that lead to violence and suppression of the First Amendment,” she said. “As a former elected official, he should be more aware of the way his words impact public safety and constitutional rights.”
On Tuesday’s radio show, DeMaio said: “San Diego Democrats knew about all this, but kept it a quiet secret, supporting [Beiser] in election after election… until Beiser said ‘I want to run for City Council.’ … District 7 is a Republican seat. Democrats know that this information will probably leak out, if Beiser is the nominee, and makes it to the general election.
“So you know what they did? They decided to leak this information to the media — to take Beiser out of office. This is not coming from Republicans. This is not even coming from victims. This is coming from the San Diego Democrat establishment.”
DeMaio didn’t mention that as a mayoral candidate in 2013, he himself was accused of sexual misconduct. And in 2014, only weeks before the congressional election in which DeMaio was favored by some against Democrat Scott Peters, CNN broke a story that Todd Bosnich, DeMaio’s former campaign policy director, was accusing the candidate of sexual harassment, “even saying DeMaio masturbated in front of him.”
DeMaio called the allegations completely false, “and is clearly nothing more than a smear campaign during the last 20 days before the election.”
Incumbent Peters defeated DeMaio in that 52nd District race by 3.2 percentage points.
Bosnich would later plead guilty in federal court to fabricating emails to support his claim that DeMaio threatened him to stay silent. In November 2015, he was sentenced to five years’ probation, 240 hours community service and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.
Investigators never proved or refuted Bosnich’s original allegations of DeMaio misconduct.
DeMaio said on air that Democrats ignored Beiser’s alleged behavior — “just like they did with Bob Filner.”
“This is an old trick that they’ve played in San Diego politics,” he said. “They cover up for their own. They continue to clutch their pearls, screaming ‘MeToo!’ and ‘Defend the women’ and ‘Believe the victims.'”
But DeMaio gave Democrats credit for quietly warning each other: “Don’t go to his pool parties because he plies people with alcohol and does inappropriate things.”
Posner stands in wonder of DeMaio.
Pointing to the “Mr. Creeper” account by DeMaio’s partner, she said: “It looks to me like your story should be a fifth claim against Beiser — from Johnathan Hale.”
And Voice of San Diego’s Lewis said: “By his comments, he seems to have been as plugged into the rumors as anyone, so why didn’t he say something? … OMG, was he part of the cover-up?”
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