During a press conference last month, Mayor Ed Murray admonished the media for not doing enough research into his relationship with Jeff Simpson, a troubled teen Murray served as a foster parent for and who accused Murray of sexual abuse in the early 1980s. At the time of the press conference, a lawsuit brought by another man accusing Murray of abuse in the ‘80s had been dropped, and Murray was claiming vindication.
About Simpson, he said: “If the press had asked, they could have asked the school, that when he wasn’t in school I would call the police. That I put him in drug treatment. That when he had problems with me being gay, I got his school counselor to counsel him,” he told reporters. “All those records exist. Also that a prosecutor and grand jury investigated [the abuse allegation] and did not pursue it.”
A little later, his husband, Michael Shiosaki, put a finer point on it with a direct jab at the press corps gathered around him: “Do your homework.”
It was a fateful exchange. In part by invoking Murray’s own request for reporters to pursue records about him and Simpson, Seattle Times reporters Lewis Kamb and Jim Brunner did some more homework about Simpson’s accusations, and on Sunday published details of a child protective service investigation from the time of the alleged abuse that determined Simpson was telling the truth. The revelations from the documents, once thought to have been destroyed, risk putting Murray and his administration back into crisis mode just as things seemed to have been cooling off in the scandal that has already scuttled Murray’s hope for a second term.
“In the professional judgment of this caseworker who has interviewed numerous children of all ages and of all levels of emotional disturbance regarding sexual abuse, Jeff Simpson has been sexually abused by … Edward Murray,” CPS caseworker Judy Butler wrote in the documents uncovered by the Times. The document also states that Murray should not be allowed to be a foster parent for any other children.
For years, Simpson has tried to get media coverage of his claims of abuse against Murray, which he says began when he was 13 and Murray was in his mid-20s. However, it wasn’t until another man, Delvonn Heckard, filed a lawsuit against Murray this year claiming Murray paid him for sex when he was 15 that Simpson’s claims—and that of another man, Lloyd Anderson, came to light. Since then, a fourth man has also publicly accused Murray of abuse in the 1980s. Murray has vigorously denied all the claims, pointing to the troubled pasts of his accusers and noting that an Oregon prosecutor in the 1980s chose not to bring charges related to Simpson’s accusations due to credibility issues on Simpson’s part.
Murray’s defense of himself has struck many as little more than victim blaming. During the June press conference after Heckard dropped his suit, Murray made a point to apologize to “any of the victims of sexual abuse who were hurt by my initial response to this story.”
“I am deeply sorry. Victims of sexual abuse must be heard,” he said.
However, in response to Sunday’s story, Murray issued a statement through his personal spokesman impugning the credibility of Simpson.
“The Child Protective Services documents the Times based its story on obviously do not tell the full story. Consistent with the findings of the District Attorney that the accusations could not be proven, there is a record with numerous accounts from others who found considerable credibility issues with Jeff and his claims,” Murray said in the statement.
Murray also seized on the fact, also revealed for the first time in the Times story, that Anderson had accused another foster parent of sexual abuse as well. Anderson told the Times he did not recall making that accusation.
“The Seattle Times story today does not change the basic facts of what happened in 1984, nor does it offer any tangible new evidence to buttress Jeff’s claim. More than thirty years ago, Jeff made an accusation against me – and, contrary to what he had previously told the Times and other local media, against another foster parent.”
Murray says he’d never seen the CPS report until the Times reporters showed it to him.
The new revelations have renewed calls for Murray to resign—and again opened the debate about where the line is between defense and victim-blaming.
In order to focus on the future, for the sake of survivors & the city, I feel @mayoredmurray should resign.
— Mike McGinn (@mayormcginn) May 9, 2017
It shows contempt for voters—many of whom have themselves been abused—and for the city. People ask me why I'm no fan of his. Here it is.
— Hanna Brooks Olsen (@mshannabrooks) July 16, 2017
In their story, Kamb and Brunner note that they reminded Murray in an interview about his request that the media do more to investigate his past with Simpson. Murray responded that they “cherry pick” records.