Updated after the jump with more comments from Whitman and a response from Jerry Brown's campaign. First posted at 10:38 a.m.
If you were waiting for the dirty tricks to start dropping in the governor's race, wait no more: Attorney Gloria Allred announced Wednesday morning that a former housekeeper of Republican candidate Meg Whitman has come forward with a claim against her ex-employer. It turns out the woman is an illegal immigrant.
The housekeeper, identified by Whitman's camp as Nicky Diaz, stated through Allred that she was "emotionally and financially abused" by Whitman and that working for her "was a nightmare."
Allred said Diaz was made "to feel exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused.''
"The relationship was terminated last year by Ms. Whitman for what appeared to be political reasons involving Ms. Whitman's decision to run for governor,'' Allred said.
Whitman responded shortly afternoon with a statement admitting that Diaz was in her employ from 2000 to 2009 and that she was surprised to learn the housekeeper was undocumented.
The former eBay CEO said that Diaz was terminated as soon as she found out she was illegal. She indicated that she felt duped by Diaz -- alleging that she had falsified documents in order to work.
"Nicky Diaz was my housekeeper from 2000 to 2009. We consider Nicky a friend of our family and were saddened this morning to hear about her legal action.
After 9 years of faithful service, Nicky came to us in June 2009 and confessed that she was an illegal worker. Nicky had falsified the hiring documents and personal information she provided to the employment agency that brought her to us in 2000. Nicky told me that she was admitting her deception now because she was aware that her lie might come out during the campaign. Nicky said she was concerned about hurting my family and me.
As required by law, once we learned she was an illegal worker, I immediately terminated Nicky's employment. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I considered Nicky a friend and a part of our extended family.
I am deeply worried about Nicky and her family. I believe Nicky is being manipulated by Gloria Allred for political and financial purposes during the last few weeks of a hotly contested election. This is a shameful example of the politics of personal destruction practiced by people like Jerry Brown and Gloria Allred. The charges are without merit. I will continue to focus my campaign on the issues that the people of California want to hear about: jobs, education and fixing our broken budget system in Sacramento."
Can you say "opposition research?" Of course Whitman and Democratic candidate Jerry Brown have been battling over the Latino vote, which could indeed be key. So this should come as no surprise. Because when you're rich and running for office, you had a Latino housekeeper who has suddenly become disgruntled the week before absentee voting starts.
It's part of the political process.
A Whitman spokeswoman, Andrea Jones Rivera, said she smelled a Brown campaign trick: She said Allred is "a shameful manipulator'' who supports Brown.
"With the polls tied, it comes as no surprise that the morning after a successful debate for Meg that the sleaze machine of the political left is now focused on the politics of personal destruction," Rivera said.
Of course, the sleaze machine works both ways. We'll stay tuned.
Update: Jerry Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford responded late Wednesday afternoon with this statement:
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"Nicky Diaz has a compelling story, and it is our hope that she will be treated with respect and dignity as this story unfolds.
Once again, Meg Whitman has shown that she thinks the rules don't apply to her. 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. From the start, Meg Whitman has failed to tell Californians the truth - about her voting record, her positions on climate change, her history of conflict with staffers, or about Jerry Brown. California deserves a governor who tells the truth."
Update #2: Speaking on Fox Business News Wednesday, Whitman refuted allegations she knew Diaz was illegal:
"It's simply a lie. I feel terrible for Nicky (Diaz). Nicky is a wonderful individual, she was mixed into part of our family for nine years. Something has happened. She is being manipulated. This is a political gimmick led by Gloria Allred who is famous for this kind of stuff. It's just politics as usual and it's a real shame because poor Nicky, I just feel terrible for her. It's all not true but it's just politics as usual."
... We used an employment agency to find Nicky. She filled out a 10-99, showed a California driver's license. Everything was in order. We specified with the agent we wanted to make sure we had someone who was here legally to work in the United States. No one was more surprised when she came to be in June 2009 and admitted she was here illegally and had forged the documents."