PERSPECTIVE: Fletcher the Lecher Exposed
Most people are stunned by the meteoric crash of San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s political career in a span of just a few days this week, but, in truth, this moment was entirely predictable and not unexpected.
Fletcher announced late Sunday night that he was ending his nascent campaign for State Senate and entering treatment for PTSD, childhood trauma, and alcohol abuse, then two days later admitted to "consensual interactions" with a younger public employee, setting off political shockwaves that rocked his career, and set into motion several cascading campaign moves for others.
For years, Fletcher has benefited politically and financially from convenient connections and relationships that propelled him rapidly from a combat US Marine in the desert of Iraq to shaking hands with presidents and other dignitaries just a few years later.
Fletcher first married well-connected George W. Bush staffer Mindy Tucker and became a rising star in Republican politics before switching Parties, divorcing her, and moving on to marry Lorena Gonzalez, one of the most powerful Democratic women in the state, then transformed himself into a liberal, woke, union-loving progressive within a span of just a few years.
Many political observers recall Fletcher’s 2012 speech at the San Diego Republican Party when he sought their endorsement for his first run for Mayor, when he said he hated labor unions, bragged that he walked precincts for Ronald Reagan as a kid, and claimed to be a better Republican than his rival in the race, Carl DeMaio.
After the Party endorsed DeMaio, Fletcher threw his lollipop in the sand and dropped his Republican registration, and lost the race.
Fletcher promised his values wouldn’t change on the political spectrum, only his party affiliation.
Then Fletcher got a high-profile job at QUALCOMM, the local tech giant founded by one of his biggest supporters; billionaire Dr. Irwin Jacobs. The position gave Fletcher, who had left the State Assembly early to run for Mayor, an income and landing place while he planned his next move.
The following year, when Lorena Gonzalez joined other powerful women in pushing Mayor Bob Filner to resign over allegations of sexual harassment against him, Fletcher ran for Mayor in a special election to replace Filner, this time as an Independent, but lost again.
A few months later, Fletcher registered as a Democrat and was welcomed with open arms by the liberal elite who barely questioned his curious transformation from Republican firebrand to staunch union-loving Democrat.
After his second mayoral loss, Fletcher landed a teaching position at UCSD as a “Professor of Practice”, a new title never before used by the prestigious university, even though Fletcher refused to produce his college transcripts and UCSD admitted they didn't bother to confirm whether he had actually earned an undergraduate degree he claimed from California Baptist University in Riverside.
Fletcher's LinkedIn profile claims he has a "B.A., Political Science" but his Wikipedia page claims he earned a "Bachelor of Science in Political Science". Either way, some critics contend his degree is simply "BS".
Although Fletcher did not prove he had any degree at all, he became the only “Professor” in UCSD’s Political Science department without a doctorate.
Several sources involved in the decision to hire Fletcher at UCSD say the position was pushed by Irwin Jacobs, one of the school’s most famous professors and a huge financial donor to the University.
Fletcher used his good looks and charm, and the financial backing of his new wife’s friends, to finally win election to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors as a Democrat after having lost two runs for San Diego Mayor as a Republican and then as an Independent.
Since his election in 2018, he championed liberal causes, backed labor union projects, and led the County’s pandemic lockdown and vaccine initiatives. He maintained a high profile on many -if not every- political issue in town.
But in the background, there have always been rumors and stories of Fletcher’s wandering eye and flirtatious approach to women, especially younger women he interacted with at work and at UCSD.
When Fletcher announced late on Sunday that he was ending his Senate campaign and entering rehab, many thought the timing was suspicious and seemed like he was getting out in front of an imminent story about to break.
And, sure enough, just 48 hours later, we learned of the second shoe to drop; a young Hispanic female staffer at the Metropolitan Transit System, which Fletcher chaired, filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging sexual harassment and retaliation after having engaged in text exchanges that depict Fletcher more like a horny teenager than a powerful community leader.
Fletcher’s admitted “consensual interactions” are not just private indiscretions; they are abusive harassment because of the power imbalance between a powerful elected official and an employee of a public entity he oversaw, even if not officially, at a minimum, in an influential political role.
In texts with the staffer, Fletcher asks her to drive near his home he shares with Gonzalez and that he would ditch his official security detail to meet up with her for a late-night walk. In another exchange, he asked her to meet him at a hotel after 10 pm when his security team was off for the night, clearly demonstrating his understanding of how inappropriate his illicit behavior truly was.
But the most cringe-worthy text was one he sent this past New Year’s Eve where he wished the young staffer “Happy New Year mi armor. Here is to a 2023 where all are desires come true.”
Fletcher not only misspelled “amor” in his attempt to woo the young Latina, but he sent it on the night before his 6th wedding anniversary with his wife.
The next day, Fletcher tweeted a beautiful wedding picture of himself and Gonzalez saying he married his "best friend" and signed it with "Happy Anniversary my love!"
To add just one more level of depravity to his transgressions, he conducted all these admitted consensual interactions while his wife was bouncing back from a breast cancer diagnosis, double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit claims Fletcher, Gonzalez, and their lawyer threatened to destroy the younger staffer if she filed a lawsuit, but neither side would release their correspondence to review the language and tone for ourselves.
Fletcher’s lawyer instead released a statement saying the plaintiff “pursued” Fletcher and the interactions were “consensual”, but as we saw with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, there is always an implied -if not actual- coercion when one person has dominion over the other.
Victim shaming is a bad look for Fletcher, and even worse for his wife who loudly called for Filner’s resignation, as well as that of union leader Mickey Kasparian when those two men were accused of abusing their respective powers against women.
Now, just a few days after the catastrophic implosion of his political career over the staffer’s lawsuit, a former UCSD student who took Fletcher’s class has also come forward alleging he made unwanted advances toward her during a 2015 trip while she was an intern for a non-profit Fletcher helped found.
Given Fletcher’s admitted behavior and allegations now coming forward, there is clearly a pattern that many people suspected, but it seems a few others knew about and ignored.
UCSD put Fletcher in a position he was not academically qualified to hold and exposed young students to a middle-aged man with a predilection toward younger women he could influence with his power and good looks.
Other politicians empowered him and allowed him to shape-shift from a staunch Republican to a bleeding-heart Democrat because it served their progressive agenda.
And many in the political class were simply afraid to raise issues against the combined clout of Fletcher and his wife and all their powerful friends.
The history of politics is littered with cautionary tales of ambitious leaders with incredible potential who were brought down by their hubris, usually caused by deep seeded personal issues and insecurities that manifest themselves in dangerous and damaging ways.
Hurt people hurt people.
Maybe Fletcher does suffer from PTSD, childhood trauma, and alcohol abuse that are at the root of his egotistical power trip towards women, and, if that’s the case, he should take therapy seriously and work on himself for his sake, and that of his family.
Some suspect he used the announcement of seeking treatment as cover only after negotiations, threats, and wishful thinking failed to stop the young staffer from coming forward, and that would be a tragic misuse of mental health issues that lead over 130 people daily in the US to commit suicide, including 20 military veterans each day.
If he's serious about PTSD among military veterans, Fletcher should donate the million dollars in his stalled Senate campaign to non-profits helping those with mental health issues instead of giving it to another politician or political party in an attempt to sustain his power base.
We still don’t have all of the facts needed to determine if any civil or criminal violations may have occurred, so we should withhold final judgment on those issues.
But one thing is for sure: Nathan Fletcher has admitted he engaged in reckless, damaging, and embarrassing behavior with at least one public employee who was put in a compromising position at work that no one should have to endure. Ever.
Based on his own admissions and text messages he does not dispute are real, it’s clear that Nathan Fletcher should not be anywhere near any position of power. Not in government. Not at a university. Nowhere. Full stop.
The public should trust that our elected officials are busy working to solve the myriad issues facing our communities, and not wasting their time chasing and harassing young employees, wreaking havoc in people's private lives, and spending taxpayer money defending against lawsuits and paying out legal settlements.
Fletcher announced this week that he would resign from the County Board effective May 15th, but it’s not good enough.
Nathan Fletcher should resign effective immediately so the County can formally move forward in replacing him with someone committed to representing the District, victims can begin to get closure with respect to what they endured, and the community can know he won’t be using his elected power against anyone anymore.
This is another sad chapter in San Diego’s political history where someone entrusted by the public to do good, instead, did bad.
Godspeed, Nathan Fletcher. We hope you get better, for everyone’s sake, but, for now, please go away.