On Facebook, his interests include baseball, politics—and pranks.
His Twitter bio, until recently, touted his role as a “former GOP operative.” A deputy press secretary in the nation’s capitol for a congressional small-business committee, he was once in the employ of former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio while serving as president of the SDSU College Republicans.
Meet Jeff Leieritz, the Aztec alum behind the blurred face—an eyewitness has confirmed to CityBeat—in a photograph taken at the recent Las Vegas bachelorette party for mayoral press secretary Lená Lewis as she sipped from a penis-shaped straw. The photo launched spears of derision at local television station 10News for publishing it in one of the more contrived stories in this season of political low-ball journalism targeting outgoing Mayor Bob Filner.
“Photo shows Mayor Filner’s press secretary sipping on straw shaped like male genitalia,” the Aug. 20 online headline blared. “One of Mayor Bob Filner’s staff members is also under scrutiny,” the story teasingly began under a photograph of Lewis and an obscured male who appears to be taking the picture. The alleged news hook appeared to be the suggestion that Lewis was not available for comment as the mayoral recall formally got under way two weekends ago.
Social media exploded after 10News decided to run the photograph, with accompanying finger-wagging from Republican-leaning political analyst John Dadian.
“She is somebody who is the public face for the mayor," 10News quoted Dadian as saying. “You quite honestly have to have a higher standard. She should know better.”
Save for local Republican Party official Derrick Roach, Dadian seemed to stand alone in his assessment. (Roach, in an online comment, oddly suggested that if Lewis worked for “Disney or the Boy Scouts,” she would have been “reprimanded if not fired.”)
“[D]umbest news story. Ever,” declared former DeMaio staffer Jeff Powell. “Whoever took the pic,” an online comment suggested, “should get kicked in the nuts.” Sara Libby, managing editor at Voice of San Diego, was so incensed by the story that she penned a counter-strike, proudly recounting her own recent bachelorette-party exploits.
“All the lack of news value in the world doesn’t seem to matter when there’s some good old-fashioned slut-shaming to cheer on,” Libby wrote sarcastically.
Inspired, CityBeat set out to identify the unnamed photographer. A 10News employee, meanwhile, was busy telling people behind the scenes that any connection with DeMaio was “bullshit.”
But then, a break. A self-proclaimed friend of the photographer, Derek Wixon, began boasting on Facebook about the penis-straw post. Turns out it was all a set-up.
“The guy with the blurred out face… actually prompted her to take this photo when he recognized her in Vegas and little did she know, he is involved in politics and actually worked on an opposing candidates [sic] campaign for a period of time,” Wixon wrote. He concluded sophomorically, “Raises questions as to how she got the job.”
In subsequent comments to his Facebook post, Wixon defended the publishing of the photo in increasingly hostile fashion—“All is fair in love and war,” followed by “it’s a slug to the left so its [sic] awesome lol” and, finally, “She is still gonna be known as the ‘straw cock’ chick… good luck breaking the glass ceiling now hahahaha.”
But Wixon’s chest-thumping left clues that were brought to the attention of CityBeat. Employment hints provided unwittingly by Wixon helped narrow down the prospects.
“That’s the guy,” a source familiar with the picture-taking incident told CityBeat when provided with a clear photograph of Leieritz.
CityBeat reached out to Leieritz, who’s listed as deputy press secretary and head of new media for the House Small Business Committee in Washington, D.C., but a receptionist said he was unavailable. Emails and messages to Leieritz also went unanswered.
But the weekend photographer—who posted pictures from Las Vegas the same weekend Lewis was there—has clearly been busy behind the scenes.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Leieritz’s Linkedin page listed nine months worth of work for DeMaio in 2009 as “outreach manager.” But a day later, that reference vanished. After CityBeat emailed Leieritz about the change, the DeMaio job description reappeared. In recent days, he also removed the “former GOP operative” reference on his Twitter page.
CityBeat attempted to seek comment from DeMaio about his former employee, but he, too, did not respond. Leieritz worked closely in subsequent jobs with Stephen Puetz, DeMaio’s former campaign spokesman, who now serves as chief of staff to City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer. Puetz, a vociferous Filner critic on social media, also remained mum.
Leieritz has had his share of obscure media coverage of late. In June, Roll Call published a story that detailed a squabble he had with a legislative-assistant roommate who claimed that Leieritz “went behind my back and told my landlord that I was planning on moving out, which is not true.”
The roommate, Oscar Urteaga of San Diego, lost his job after airing the household battle in a profanity-laced email to co-workers that referred to Leieritz as a “backstabbing little bitch.” Urteaga, who also could not be reached for comment, reportedly blamed Leieritz’s own recent engagement for the home-turf war.