As Election Nears, Fred Newman Defends Social Therapy
The unorthodox views of controversial political activist Fred Newman were on display on “Inside City Hall” Thursday night. NY1’s Rita Nissan filed the following report.
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Fred Newman shed new light on his role in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's narrow 2001 election victory, but that’s not all he talked about Thursday night on “Inside City Hall.”
The controversial Independence Party activist helped Bloomberg get the party's endorsement, which secured enough vote for him to win. Newman, who also created a psychotherapy practice Social Therapy, says he enlisted patients to work on the Bloomberg campaign.
“They were people who I knew for a variety of reasons, including that some of them were in therapy,” said Newman.
A spokesperson for the mayor says Newman did not do anything that was sanctioned by the campaign. But this troubles mainstream psychologists, who say there should be boundaries between patients and therapists. Newman doesn't agree.
From the sound of it, he even thinks it is okay for therapists to have sex with their patients.
He dodged repeated questions about how he felt about this issue.
“I think that people have the right to do the things they want to do with each other,” said Newman. “That includes going to the grocery, going for a cup of coffee, and if they become intimate, to do that.”
Newman also would not acknowledge if he has had sex with patients or whether he lives with them. This is all significant because one of Newman's top supporters, Lenora Fulani, may run for mayor in 2009. Fulani is also a social therapist, and says if elected, she has said she'll use Social Therapy in city schools.
Psychologist Cathleen Mann, a frequent critic of Newman's, is worried.
“It's too easy to exploit patients in this kind of a situation,” said Mann. “That's why the American Psychiatric Association, and any other responsible oversight organization, says this is an ethical violation.”
Now frail and on dialysis, Newman first got into politics and therapy in the 1970s. He had a small group of followers, many who are still with him today.
Newman brought his political organizing skills to the New York State Independence Party in the Î90s. That's when influential politicians started to seek his support.
The Independence line provides an extra source of votes to Republicans and Democrats. But two years ago, NY1 reported on allegations that he leads a cult and takes advantage of vulnerable people. Newman denies that.
Since then though, Bloomberg and other politicians stopped attending his charity events and distanced themselves.
“We've been fairly treated as citizens of New York by the mayor and his administration, but we've had no contact,” said Newman.
The state party is also trying to cut ties by stripping Newman of his power — but he says he'll keep fighting.
- Rita Nissan