PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, whose altercation with a woman back in 1993 has cast a shadow on his hopes to lead the city, posted a public apology on Facebook Friday evening.
Smith was involved in a fight with a woman when he was a college student at the University of Oregon. He said during a news conference on Oct. 1 that he struck a woman at a college party, although he claims he acted in self-defense.
The incident has become a major campaign issue for Smith, who this week lost endorsements from both the police and fire unions.
According to a Survey USA poll conducted for KATU News after the news of the altercation first came to light, Smith's competitor Charlie Hales has a seven point lead. Still, 33 percent of voters said they were undecided.
Here is what Smith posted on his campaign Facebook page on Friday:
A note before the week is out to say that I am sorry.
When I got into the race, I knew that more people would know me as a flawed person. I hoped to be candid and graceful in acknowledging those flaws. I write to apologize both for my flaws and for my lack of grace.
I am sorry to the woman and all involved. I remain at least as sorry as I was 20 years ago. I accept whatever anyone calls it: a hit, knock, rap, bop, tag, or another word -- I did it, it hurt her and it was wrong. I did not intend to, and I still feel terrible about it. I ask for no one to defend my actions that night. I have spoken out against violence against women and I will continue to; I need to speak out against my own conduct. Violence against women is never ok. Nor do I want any recounting of memories to trump my effort to accept responsibility. No matter what anybody else was doing, what I did was wrong.
I also want to apologize for anything I said to her. As vigorously as I want to defend my honor, I want to do that not by denying but by apologizing. Ultimately, I’m not asking you to trust my memory. Or my descriptions. Or even recounts of other people there. I am just asking that you trust my apology.
To family, friends, volunteers and staff...and to supporters, both those who have stepped aside and those who remain involved in the campaign: people put a lot on the line, and I am as grateful as I am sorry. Not only for my conduct years ago, but for more recently. I should have found a way to bring this all up long ago. I have come close to talking publicly about it and failed. Each time, two things stopped me: 1) the knowledge that I would implicate and blindside someone else not seeking a public life, and 2) my own cowardice. I should have trusted people more. I should have been stronger.
I now realize that I should have never tried to visit this woman. Despite my good intentions, it was a bad idea. I went to let her know that this story would soon become public; I went alongside a female friend. It felt wrong to me to have a press conference about it without contacting her first. I still feel that way. But it is clear now that this contact caused her pain, and I regret it. It was a bad choice. I now know -- and understand -- that she had absolutely no desire to see me. I apologize to her for this.
The press conference and subsequent interviews did not reflect the person I want to be. We moved quickly -- and from an intent quite the opposite of hiding. I gave thoughts from memory and with good intentions. But with my every attempt to answer questions, I did more explaining and justifying than apologizing. I wanted to look good rather than embrace the bad. My focus should have been on saying sorry, not on offering a version of facts or trying to synthesize competing memories.
Also to the city. We should be having a campaign and conversation about the city and the future. My own actions and flaws have made that conversation more muddled and less relevant. Even sending this letter today rather than last week has added to the muddle. And I am not just talking about any one mistake. It is important for a person and a leader to be able to manage their emotions very well. And it is deeply important to me to be sensitive and appropriate with women and all people. I am taking actions to improve in these areas. I don’t offer this to absolve myself of even an ounce of responsibility, but in recognition that I need to take responsibility. Not only for 20 years ago, but for the rest of my life. I want to be open, not because I am sure it is the right thing to do as a candidate, but to do the right thing as a human being.
Going forward, I hope to have conversations about the future, about moving forward. About problems bigger than my own. For now, I just want to say that I am sorry.