Whitman calls allegations 'a political smear'

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 30, 2010, 2:45pm


SACRAMENTO (Legal Newsline) -- California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, in a news conference Thursday afternoon, denied allegations she had received a letter from the U.S. Social Security Administration in 2003, questioning her former housekeeper's citizenship.

Whitman called the allegations "truly a political smear."

She told reporters, "First of all, make no mistake: these allegations are completely untrue. We never saw any such letter."

Whitman, a Republican, added that if one existed "somehow it ended up in Jerry Brown's hands or in Gloria Allred's hands."

The former eBay CEO came under fire this week after Nicky Diaz Santillan, a former housekeeper for the billionaire, made allegations that Whitman knew she was an illegal immigrant while she was employed.

Diaz Santillan worked for Whitman and her husband for nine years before being fired in 2009 when she allegedly approached Whitman about her immigration status and asked for help in becoming a U.S. citizen.

Allred, a well-known California discrimination attorney, held a news conference Wednesday announcing Diaz Santillan was filing a lawsuit against the gubernatorial candidate.

Whitman has disputed the housekeeper's claims, saying she has never received the letters. She also contends Diaz Santillan lied about her immigration status, and believes her camp has the documents to prove it.

Allred says she, too, has evidence of her client's allegations.

"We were stunned when Nicky told us she was illegal," Whitman said Thursday. "My husband and I did everything we could to hire someone who was documented to work here. When I found out this woman was not here legally, we let her go. It's a tough thing to do when you have a personal relationship, but it's the right thing to do."

In a statement released earlier by Whitman's camp, they said the lawsuit is "dirty politics" and that Whitman is the target of "personal destruction."

Andrea Jones Rivera, a spokeswoman for Whitman's campaign, said Allred -- a known Brown supporter -- is a "disgraceful manipulator."

Rivera said this is a warning for the California residents, as the suit is "dirty politics at its worst" and serves no other purpose.

Whitman is currently campaigning -- and has spent more than $100 million of her own money -- to be California's next governor. She's in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Brown, the state's current Attorney General and former governor. The election is just five weeks away.

Brown issued his own statement regarding the housekeeper's allegations.

"Once again, Meg Whitman has shown that she thinks the rules don't apply to her," he said.

"From the start, Meg Whitman has failed to tell Californians the truth... Nicky Diaz has a compelling story, and it is our hope that she will be treated with respect and dignity as this story unfolds."

He added, "After more than a year of Whitman demanding immigration policy that holds employers accountable, we learn that accountability doesn't extend to her own actions."

At Thursday's news conference, Whitman said of the suit's possible effects on the race, "I actually think it could backfire on the Brown campaign and help me with the Latino community."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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