Mayor Gavin Newsom categorically denied ever using cocaine Wednesday and blasted Supervisor Chris Daly for raising the allegation during a jammed Board of Supervisors meeting a day earlier, saying his City Hall tactics had brought San Francisco politics to a new low.
Newsom, who earlier this year entered rehab for a drinking problem, angrily responded to reporters' questions about whether he has ever used coke, saying, "Absolutely not."
"I am associated with something that I don't do, never have, not even in the realm of reason should someone even accuse me of this," Newsom said.
The Chris Daly show is getting really old. He has opposed everything Newsom has done over the last few years and has a personal vendetta against the man. It's okay to fight for what you and your constituents believe in, but to make allegations like this goes way over the line. To accuse someone of doing illegal drugs without definitive proof is highly irresponsible.
Where is Daly's proof? Did he see Newsom doing coke? Did our mayor have a little white stuff on his nose one day while in City Hall? Maybe Gavin had just eaten a doughnut with powdered sugar on it. Maybe he had just powdered his nose before going before the news cameras. Seriously, these are serious accusations that Daly is making here. If he doesn't have conclusive evidence, than he shouldn't make the charges.
Chris Daly is a jerk, in my opinion. He loves to get his name in the papers by saying outrageous things and now he is promoting a lynch-mob mentality by saying things he can't back up. The man should definitely be censured for these latest remarks. He is turning City Hall into a circus and he wants to be the ringleader. Newsom should
sue the guy for libel.
Daly, a former housing-rights activist who is praised by many for being a passionate advocate and disliked by others for having a volatile temper, raised the allegations during a speech Tuesday at a board hearing on $6 million in proposed cuts by the mayor's office to next year's Department of Public Health budget.
The supervisor, whose district includes the city's Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, said Newsom was eliminating substance-abuse treatment funds for poor people while he "artfully dodges every question about allegations of his own cocaine use."
"Where does Gavin Christopher Newsom get his substance abuse services, and how much do they cost the city and county of San Francisco?" Daly asked. The question was met with enthusiastic applause from the people who had packed into the board chambers to oppose the budget cuts.
In February, after Newsom admitted to having an affair with an aide who also was his campaign manager's wife, he said he was pursuing treatment for alcohol abuse. After these revelations, Newsom, 39, gave a television interview during which he was asked about whether rumors circulating at City Hall about him using cocaine were true. Newsom, however, did not directly answer the question, instead calling the rumors "absolutely laughable."
But on Wednesday, Newsom fired back at his political rival for broaching the subject publicly and called the allegation "so gratuitous, so erroneous that it's just patently false." He also sent a letter to Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin requesting that the board address Daly's conduct.
The cocaine comments created yet another scandal in City Hall, overshadowing Supervisor Ed Jew's headline-grabbing legal troubles. Jew faces criminal charges for allegedly falsifying records to meet residency requirements to run for supervisor last year, and the city attorney is seeking approval from the state attorney general to file a lawsuit to force Jew from office for not being a resident of his supervisory district. He also is a target of a federal public corruption investigation for accepting $40,000 from businessmen facing city permit problems.
Daly's statements ignited a whole new firestorm, with Newsom on one side infuriated about having to answer questions about drug use in an election year and Daly on the other, saying he stands solidly behind everything he said and will not apologize.
The comments were so controversial that they drew widespread media coverage and prompted some of Daly's colleagues on the board -- many of whom typically relish any opportunity to publicly chastise the mayor -- to distance themselves from him.
"I don't see how allegations about someone's personal life furthers the public policy goals he espouses to promote," Peskin said. "The entire episode is conduct unbecoming an elected official."
Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Cal State Sacramento, said there is such a thing as below-the-belt in politics, and raising allegations of cocaine use without evidence to back up the claim certainly qualifies.
"This is why the public hates politicians," she said. "They view it as people playing by different rules and civility doesn't always prevail. It's almost like reality TV in City Hall. But this isn't Jerry Springer. It's a City Hall budget hearing."
It's hardly the first time Daly, 34, has been at the center of City Hall controversy. In 2004, he escaped censure by an 8-2 vote. The push came from Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier after he had told the audience at a board committee meeting to "f- off" and walked out.
Last week, Peskin booted Daly from his post as chairman of the powerful budget committee because Daly had been engaged in a bitter public conflict with Newsom over budget priorities.
On Wednesday, Daly said he appreciated the mayor's direct answer to questions about his alleged cocaine use but said he still believes Newsom uses or has used the drug.
During an interview in his City Hall office, Daly said he had heard the rumors about cocaine in City Hall, referred to the television interview in which Newsom was asked about cocaine and also mentioned a pending lawsuit by disgruntled San Francisco police officers whose lawyers want to depose Newsom and ask about his drinking and about drug use.
Asked if he thought he owed the mayor an apology for the remarks, Daly said, "No. Any more yes-or-no questions?"