#MeToo movement gives pass to Democrats running for California governor

Gavin Newsom had an inappropriate affair with his employee. Antonio Villaraigosa cheated on his wife with a reporter assigned to cover him.

Yet the #MeToo movement, which has urged women to speak up about sexual misconduct allegations, has remained visibly silent about the sexual conduct of two prominent Democrats running for governor in California.

Some are calling it outright hypocrisy. Critics say the two abused their power and took advantage of vulnerable women – not unlike the allegations taking down powerful men all across the country.

Amanda Renteria, a Democrat also running for governor, is calling on Newsom, the clear frontrunner of the race, to step aside.

“I think elected officials need to be held to higher standard,” Renteria said. “And no matter who it is or where it is, we need to make sure we elect people who do not abuse their power in any way.”

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Some supporters of the #MeToo movement, however, are giving Newsom a pass.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who has said sexual harassment is inappropriate “in every circumstance in every way,” endorsed Newsom. Comedian Chelsea Handler, a vocal supporter of the movement, helped him raise $17 million from Silicon Valley and Hollywood donors.

In 2007, when  Gavin Newsom was in his first term as San Francisco mayor, he admitted to having an affair with his appointment secretary, who was the wife of his campaign adviser and friend.  "I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true, and I'm deeply sorry about that," Newsom said at the time.

In 2007, when Gavin Newsom was in his first term as San Francisco mayor, he admitted to having an affair with his appointment secretary, who was the wife of his campaign adviser and friend. "I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true, and I'm deeply sorry about that," Newsom said at the time. (The Associated Press)

Democrats, instead, are blasting Renteria for calling out Newsom – saying she’s “degrading” the movement to score political points.

“#MeToo is about ownership of our experiences because we all have stories that are ours alone to tell,” Shawnda Westly, the California Democratic Party’s former executive director, told BuzzFeed News. “Instead, Amanda has chosen to degrade the movement for her own political purposes by manipulating someone else’s story for her gain.”

In 2007, when Newsom was in his first term as San Francisco mayor, he admitted to having an affair with his appointment secretary, who was the wife of his campaign adviser and friend.

"I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true, and I'm deeply sorry about that," Newsom said at the time. "I've hurt someone I care deeply about – Alex Tourk, and his friends and family. And that is something I have to live with."

Yet, the affair has barely been mentioned in the race.

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The woman with whom he had an affair, Ruby Rippey Gibney, has defended Newsom, saying his behavior does not rise to the level of discussion in the movement.

Antonio Villaraigosa admitted to having an affair with a TV reporter who covered him while he was the mayor of Los Angeles. Soon afterward, he announced he and his wife of 20 years were splitting up. Yet, he too enjoys broad Democratic support.

Antonio Villaraigosa admitted to having an affair with a TV reporter who covered him while he was the mayor of Los Angeles. Soon afterward, he announced he and his wife of 20 years were splitting up. Yet, he too enjoys broad Democratic support. (AP)

"I fully support the #metoo movement. In this particular instance, however, I am doubtful that it applies," she wrote on her Facebook page, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Yes, I was a subordinate, but I was also a free-thinking, 33-yr old adult married woman & mother. (I also happened to have an unfortunate inclination towards drinking-to-excess & self-destruction.)"

In 2007, Villaraigosa admitted to having an affair with a TV reporter who covered him while he was the mayor of Los Angeles. Soon afterward, he announced he and his wife of 20 years were splitting up. Yet, he too enjoys broad Democratic support.

Veteran columnist Dan Walters said because both affairs were consensual, the media, liberal donors and many Democrats are looking the other way.

“It is just not that big a deal anymore,” Walters said. “This isn't Kansas, this isn’t Georgia or Alabama – this is California, and we take a pretty tolerant view of people's foibles.”

Renteria, however, sees a double standard, especially among progressives who call out sexual misconduct in others.

“This pattern of misconduct is completely unacceptable,” she said of Newsom, according to the Medium. “From Washington to California, citizens have begun calling out misuse of power wherever and whenever it happens. That’s why it’s time for Newsom to step down.”

Many, apparently, don't share her opinion. Recent polls shows Newsom with 33 percent of the likely vote, Villaraigosa at 13 percent and Republican John Cox with 20 percent. The top candidates on Tuesday will face off in November.