J Streeter, Alleged Sexual Harasser Resigns as San Diego Mayor

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner speaks at a press conference about allegations he sexually harassed women. (AP)

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, whose political career has been aided by the left-leaning Middle East activist group J Street, announced his resignation from office on Friday amid a drawn-out and escalating sexual harassment scandal.

Eighteen women have stepped forward in recent weeks to accuse the former congressman and J Street-endorsee of sexual harassment, ranging from lewd pick-up lines to face-slobbering and unwanted groping.

In a defiant and emotional resignation speech on Friday, Filner blasted the media coverage of the scandal described the pressure on him to resign as a "political coup."

"I can’t afford to continue this battle," said Filner.

He denied that he sexually harassed anyone, and claimed, "if given due process I would be vindicated."

His resignation will take effect on Aug. 30.

Filner, pictured here at a J Street Gala in 2012, represented California’s 51st congressional district from 1993 to 2012, before succeeding Jerry Sanders as mayor of San Diego.

His political career began unraveling in July, after three female former supporters held a press conference accusing him of inappropriate sexual advances.

Filner received contributions from the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" organization’s political action arm while serving in congress in 2008 and 2010. He also joined the group’s policy efforts, voting against a pro-Israel bill in 2012.

J Street has often been accused by critics in the pro-Israel community of working against Israel’s interests. The Washington Times reported in 2010 that the organization had received much of its funding from anti-Israel financier George Soros, despite J Street’s prior denials that it accepted money from Soros.

"My lifetime commitment to civil rights has been deeply shaped and influenced by my own Jewish values and upbringing," said Filner in a 2008 endorsement of J Street. "It’s thrilling to see the emergence of a new voice in Washington giving expression to those same values and principles."

Filner submitted his resignation after reaching a deal with the San Diego City Council, which has been assessing the allegations against him.

A spokesperson for J Street declined to comment.