State Watch

San Francisco paper says Feinstein should resign if she is mentally unfit

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asks questions of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during the third day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday called for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign, arguing its reporting shows she is mentally unfit to handle the job.

The editorial was published following an article from the newspaper that cited concerns about Feinstein’s mental fitness and memory recall abilities from three of her former staff members and four current U.S. senators, including three Democrats.

The editorial board of the Chronicle cited one instance from the report in which an unnamed Democratic member of Congress from California had to introduce themselves several times to Feinstein, 88, despite working with the senator for more than a decade.

“It remains impossible not to be troubled,” the editorial read. “If Feinstein’s mental fitness has indeed deteriorated to the point where it’s an open secret that she’s incapable of doing her job, Democrats need to forgo the jokes and say so openly.”

Feinstein defended herself in a statement on Friday, saying recent mistakes were the result of grief after the death of her husband, Richard Blum, in February.

She also argued the “real question is whether I’m still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am.”

“I remain committed to do what I said I would when I was re-elected in 2018: fight for Californians, especially on the economy and the key issues for California of water and fire,” the senator said. “While I have focused for much of the past year on my husband’s health and ultimate passing, I have remained committed to achieving results and I’d put my record up against anyone’s.”

But questions about Feinstein’s mental fitness have been raised before, including in a December 2020 article from The New Yorker. Staff members who spoke to the magazine said Feinstein’s “short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic.”

Feinstein sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and could be third in line for the presidency if Democrats retain control of the Senate in the midterms. She is set to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as the Senate’s president pro tempore.

The senator, who is up for reelection in 2024, told the Chronicle she does not plan to step down before the election. Feinstein has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission that allows her to potentially run in 2024, but she has not announced whether she will officially seek another term.

Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988 before she won election to the Senate in 1992. Over her years of service, she has worked on conservation efforts and led efforts to pass historic laws including the federal assault weapons ban in 1994.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday defended her San Francisco colleague, saying the senator was a “workhorse for the people of California and a respected leader among her colleagues in the Senate” and that accusations of Feinstein’s mental unfitness were “ridiculous.”

“It is unconscionable that, just weeks after losing her beloved husband of more than four decades and after decades of outstanding leadership to our City and State, she is being subjected to these ridiculous attacks that are beneath the dignity in which she has led and the esteem in which she is held,” Pelosi said in a statement released to multiple news outlets, including the Chronicle.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have also defended Feinstein.

Khanna said the allegations were “ageist and cruel,” while Padilla told the Chronicle “she’s still doing the job and doing it well.”

The Chronicle’s editorial board said Feinstein still has “moments of clarity” and her years of public service should be respected.

“Feinstein deserves to end her career with dignity under her own terms. But denial is a hallmark of those suffering from memory loss and attendant illnesses,” editors wrote. “And if indeed the situation is so dire, then this is no time for ceremonial courtesy.”

Tags California Dianne Feinstein Dianne Feinstein Dianne Feinstein San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle U.S. Congress

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