Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped the second public bombshell in a week Monday afternoon when he said he has entered an outpatient rehabilitation program to address a second issue that has long been rumored at City Hall — alcohol abuse.
Plagued by questions regarding the role of alcohol in his life since he admitted four days ago to having an affair with a former staffer, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of longtime aide and former campaign manager Alex Tourk, Newsom said Monday that it was not an excuse for “my personal lapses in judgment.”
After a weekend of discussions with family and friends, Newsom said he decided that “I will be a better person without alcohol in my life” and entered an outpatient program at Delancey Street Foundation — a nationally recognized San Francisco organization that serves substance abusers and former felons.
Newsom’s latest confession was announced by his press office late Monday afternoon, a few hours after Supervisor Jake McGoldrick called for the mayor’s resignation, on grounds that he “lacks the moral fiber to be a leader in this city.”
“If he was guided by his conscience rather than his political position, he would have resigned already,” McGoldrick added.
Newsom said the treatment would not interfere with his duties and responsibilities as mayor.
The 39-year-old mayor admitted to the sexual relationship with Rippey-Tourk, 34, his former appointments secretary, on Thursday after media reports surfaced that Tourk, 35, resigned after confronting Newsom about the affair. Rippey-Tourk is also receiving counseling for alcohol and substance abuse and reportedly admitted the affair to Tourk as part of her rehabilitation.
Since going through a very public divorce 18 months ago from Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, Newsom’s dating choices — including a movie star who practices Scientology and a 20-year-old hostess caught with a cocktail in her hand while at a charity event with the mayor — have raised eyebrows.
Tongues have also wagged as frequent reports surfaced that the mayor spends his evenings in various states of intoxication at San Francisco establishments, including Kokkari Estiatorio Restaurant in the Financial District, the Brazenhead in the Marina, Tosca Café in North Beach and restaurants once owned by Newsom, including the Balboa Café and PlumpJack.
Supervisor Ed Jew told The Examiner that he was surprised to see Newsom “slightly intoxicated” one night last December when both politicians arrived at a hospital after a police officer was fatally wounded in the line of duty.
Newsom’s confession that alcohol had become a problem in his life was not news to members of the media who — directly after the mayor’s news conference about the affair — swarmed around his press secretary, Peter Ragone, and repeatedly asked if the sexual indiscretion was related to a drinking problem — an accusation that Ragone repeatedly denied.
Newsom has often stated how hard a job he finds being mayor, admitting at one point that he was considering not running for re-election. He also has complained that his public persona has made it increasingly difficult to date and maintain a personal life, often growing frustrated when questioned about his dating life.
“I’ll be sitting having dinner and then you’re dating someone you’ve never even kissed, and now she’s your girlfriend,” Newsom told The Examiner in January.
During the same interview he said his life lacked balance, saying “it was very difficult to find.” He said going to the movies had become one of favorite pastimes because he can remain anonymous.
City Hall insiders and political observers have repeatedly described Newsom as lonely, with few friends and a hectic 15-hour-a-day schedule.
“He’s terribly lonely, the job’s over his head, his wife left him and he’s drinking,” said one political observer who wanted to remain anonymous. “I think we’ve all known someone who’s been there.”
Delancey Street’s well-known founder, Mimi Silbert, said Newsom had called her on Saturday afternoon to discuss his desire to stop drinking and they talked for several hours. She bristled at the suggestion that Newsom wasn’t serious about getting sober.
“I would never have agreed to be the person that would help him if I thought we were just being used for anything political,” said Silbert, who said she’s known Newsom for nearly 20 years. “It was clear to me that he was very serious.”
Want to know more about City Hall insiders' reaction to Newsom's announcement? See Critics angry, not shocked by Newsom disclosure.
Mayor ponders severance for Tourk
Mayor Gavin Newsom’s campaign team is investigating whether they can use campaign contributions to offer severance pay to Newsom’s former campaign manager — who quit after learning the mayor had an affair with his wife.
Alex Tourk, 35, stepped into the role of Newsom’s re-election campaign manager in September, but prior to that worked as the mayor’s deputy chief of staff and was, by allaccounts, considered to be Newsom’s friend. On Thursday, Newsom confessed to having an affair with Tourk’s wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, who also once worked in Newsom’s office as a secretary.
Rippey-Tourk, 34, had recently confessed the affair to her husband as part of a rehabilitation program she’s going through for alcohol and substance abuse. Tourk confronted the mayor on Wednesday of last week and quit the Newsom re-election campaign.
Newsom’s chief campaign strategist, Eric Jaye, said a campaign finance attorney is being consulted to confirm that Newsom’s campaign fund can be used to provide Tourk with some portion of his $180,000-a-year campaign manager’s salary as severance.
“He had to separate from the campaign through no fault of his own,” Jaye said, adding that Tourk deserved the most generous severance package possible. “We recognize that he has a family, he has a 2-year-old kid, we don't want to leave him hanging.”
Newsom walked away Monday morning from a reporter who asked him if he would be willing to pay Tourk’s severance from his own pocket.
“I’ve said everything I’m going to say,” said Newsom, who before the question, said he was taking “personal responsibility” for the affair.
Although he couldn’t comment on the specifics of this situation, an official with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, Jon Matthews, said state law mandates that “expenditures of campaign funds must be reasonably related to a political, legislative or government purpose.”
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