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mayor admits affair with aide's wife

San Francisco
mayor admits affair with aide's wife

Confronting a political scandal that sounds more like a soap opera, San Francisco's handsome young mayor made an emotional apology Thursday for an affair with the wife of his own campaign manager.

"I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true and that I'm deeply sorry about that,'' Mayor Gavin Newsom said during a hastily called City Hall news conference at which he went on to apologize to the aide, his staff, his family, and San Franciscans.

Political observers said the divorced mayor's effusive apology, which came only hours after the story broke on a newspaper's Web site, may have helped defuse a scandal that threatened to haunt his bid for reelection in November.

Newsom's former deputy chief of staff, Alex Tourk, 39, resigned as manager of the mayor's reelection campaign Wednesday after approaching Newsom about his relationship with his attractive wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, 34, who worked as the mayor's appointments secretary until last spring.

The brief relationship first reported Wednesday night on the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site took place a year and a half ago while the mayor was getting divorced from his wife, Fox News Channel host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor and lingerie model.

Tourk, who had worked at city hall since Newsom's 2003 election, was one of Newsom's top advisers and became manager of the mayor's reelection campaign in September. Before the affair became public, the mayor's office released a statement in which Tourk said it had been ''an honor and a privilege to serve the Newsom campaigns and the city of San Francisco and its residents.''

When he was elected in November 2003, Newsom was considered a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he was criticized within weeks of taking office after directing his staff to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Since his divorce became final last March, Newsom has halfheartedly lamented his appearances in gossip columns, where his active love life has been frequent fodder and included associations with a 20-year-old model and two actresses.

But in his first public statements since the affair was reported, a poised but emotional Newsom did not offer any excuses.

''I hurt someone I care deeply about, Alex Tourk, and his friends and family, and that is something I have to live with and something that I am deeply sorry for,'' he said. ''I am accountable for what has occurred and have now begun the process of reconciling it.''

Neither Tourk nor his wife immediately returned phone calls and e-mails from the Associated Press seeking comment.

To many observers, the scandal stirred memories of former president Bill Clinton's affair with a young intern and his subsequent impeachment. But in contrast to Clinton, who famously denied ''sexual relations with that woman,'' Newsom quickly confessed and accepted responsibility.

Newsom ''did a good thing, he told the truth,'' said Neel Lattimore, the onetime press secretary to Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first lady. ''By the mayor telling the truth immediately, it begins a healing process now, as opposed to leaving a wound open and continuing to fester."

Newsom spokesman Peter Ragone said the revelation would not affect the mayor's plans to seek reelection. (Lisa Leef, AP)

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