Meg Whitman Blames Jerry Brown For Housekeeper 'Smear' : It's All Politics Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee for California governor, blamed her rival, Democrat Jerry Brown, for smearing her via the undocumented housekeeper story. Whitman denied exploiting her ex-housekeeper and said she followed the law.
NPR logo Meg Whitman Blames Jerry Brown For Housekeeper 'Smear'

Meg Whitman Blames Jerry Brown For Housekeeper 'Smear'

California Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman pointed the finger of blame at Democratic rival Jerry Brown's campaign for the revelation that she had employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years. Kevork Djansezian/AP Photo hide caption

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Kevork Djansezian/AP Photo

Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee for California governor, had someone precisely in mind to blame for the revelation that she and her husband had for nine years employed a housekeeper who turned out to be an undocumented immigrant.

At a Thursday news conference, Whitman indicated she didn't totally blame the housekeeper who passed herself off as legal. The housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan was being "manipulated," Whitman said.

Nor did she blame the employment agency through which she hired Santillan for not discovering the woman's immigration and work documents were fake.

She blamed the gubernatorial campaign of California Attorney General Jerry Brown and lawyer Gloria Allred for a "smear" Whitman said.

Actually, it was no little smear, she said.

Rather, "the Brown campaign and Gloria Allred are doing a masive smear campaign on my family and me," she said.

At a news conference lasting more than an hour during which the former eBay CEO came across as supremely self-assured, she said she always acted within the law. And if there were victims, it was her and Santillan, two people trapped by unfortunate circumstance.

The major points of Whitman's side of the story are that she first learned that Santillan was illegal on a Saturday in June 2009 when the housekeeper came to her and told her so.

Whitman said she and her husband were shocked by the news since on her hiring, Santillan had shown the Whitmans an immigration form called an I-9, a California drivers license and a Social Security card. While the drivers license appears to have been authentic, the other documents were apparently not, Whitman said.

Whitman further said she told the housekeeper she would consult her lawyer to see if there was anything that could be done. The lawyer said there wasn't and Whitman said she reluctantly let Santillan go.

Whitman repeated what she said in a statement the day before, that it was a sad moment when she fired Santillan since the housekeeper had been like a member of the family.

She also said she and her husband "Grif" had a contract with the housekeeper to pay her $23 an hour for 15 hours.

Whitman denied that she knew anything about Santillan's status any earlier than last year. She said she never saw a 2003 letter the Social Security letter issued to report that Santillan's Social Security number didn't match her name in its records.

The Republican nominee said it was possible that Santillan intercepted such a letter if one was sent to the Whitman house because one of the housekeeper's duties was to get the mail from the mailbox and bring it into the Whitman house for sorting.

The billionaire denied she owed Santillan any money. She also denied that at the time of the firing she ever told Santillan anything along the lines of "You don't know me and I don't know you, understand?"

Furthermore, she denied the charge some have made that the firing was politically expedient since, as she said, it would have made more sense to let the housekeeper go before February 2009 when she announced her campaign if she had done it for political reasons.

Whitman said she didn't report Santillan to immigration authorities on learning of her undocumented status because she wasn't legally obliged to as the employer of a domestic worker. She also said she didn't want to "make an example," of Santillan.

She also said if she had to do it all over again, she would do nothing differently.

Reacting to Santillan's Wednesday news conference in which the ex-Whitman housekeeper had lawyer Gloria Allred by her side, Whitman said:

"The tragedy of this is Nicky is being manipulated... It's absolutely false. She was reading from a prepared statement, crying. She knows it's not true. And it's not."

She also said:

"Gloria Allred does this before every election."

Indeed, before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was first elected to that office, Allred had a press conference with a woman who claimed the former Hollywood movie star had groped her.