NBC 7 spoke exclusively with embattled Mayor Bob Filner Sunday when he made a surprise appearance and the 2013 San Diego LGBT Pride celebration.
NBC 7’s news cameras caught Filner walking through the Pride festival as he shook hands with attendees and posed for a few photos with local supporters.
This is the first time the mayor has been spotted out in public since several of his former allies publicly accused him of sexually harassing numerous unidentified women.
On Thursday, hours after the sexual assault accusations came to light, Filner released a pre-recorded video statement apologizing to San Diegans admitting he “needs help” in order to change his behavior.
Then, on Friday, Filner released a statement announcing that he would not be attending the San Diego LGBT Pride celebration as planned, due to the controversy surrounding him.
However, on Sunday, Filner took everyone by surprise by making an appearance at Pride.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 7, Filner said he was glad to be at the celebration surrounded by those who still support him.
“Everybody’s saying they support me. They’re saying, ‘You’ve been great on our issues; we need you to stay,’” Filner told NBC 7.
As the mayor walked and talked, many locals ran up to shake his hand. Some gave Filner words of encouragement, like one man who told Filner he had voted for him.
“Mr. Mayor, I voted for you,” said the man as he approached Filner. “And, I will vote for you again.”
Filner stuck to talking about San Diego Pride, and the importance of this year’s local LGBT celebration.
“I’m really proud to see that our notion of equality and democracy has grown so much,” said Filner.
Despite his public appearance, the mayor remains under fire.
On Friday, several leaders including Toni Adkins and Lorena Gonzalez called on Filner to resign due to allegations of sexual harassment. In a press conference, Gonzalez said she had personally heard from victims that had allegedly been physically and verbally harassed by Filner, but didn’t name any names.
In an email statement late Friday night, Filner vowed that a "full, complete and independent investigation" would be conducted in response to any formal complaint against him.
Still, the mayor continued to proclaim his innocence.
"I am confident that a fair and independent investigation will support my innocence with respect to any charges of sexual harassment," said Filner in his statement.
“My objective is to develop an army, a legion of supporters, before I move forward. It’s important for people to understand that a premature or an improper recall is the worst thing that could happen. If a recall were to fail, then he becomes empowered,” Pallamary told NBC 7.
Meanwhile, San Diego residents had their own opinions when asked about Filner on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a wake-up call. He really needs to be alerted about all of the things that are bothering people. And I think the sexual harassment, there’s no definitive proof, but he really ought to shape up,” said local Lily Chu.
San Diego resident Melissa White said the sexual assault allegations against Filner worry her.
“If women are coming forward, then it’s definitely a concern for residents of San Diego, myself included,” said White.
"The mayor's visit to the Pride Festival was arranged by Nicole Murray Ramirez, who co-founded San Diego's first Gay Pride Parade in 1974. Ramirez also escorted the Mayor at today's event."