Updated, 2:58 p.m.:
Griffith Harsh IV, Meg Whitman's husband, now says it is “possible” he saw a letter from the Social Security Administration alerting him to the inconsistency in their housekeeper's identification.
Earlier in the day, Whitman said that neither she nor her husband received the letter.
Gloria Allred, the ex-maid's attorney, produced the letter at a noon press conference. It included a hand-scrawled note, apparently in Harsh's handwriting, saying “Nicky, please check this, thanks.”
The Whitman campaign is in full crisis mode today, fighting back
against Allred and Jerry Brown, who she said had manipulated her illegal
immigrant housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan.
“Nicky had a gun to her head,” Whitman said. “Nicky didn't understand what she was getting into with Gloria Allred.”
Whitman, the Republican nominee for governor, said she never received a “mismatch” letter from the Social Security Administration, notifying her that Diaz Santillan's identification might have been faked. She suggested that Santillan, who picked up Whitman's mail from the mailbox, might have intercepted the letter.
“We never saw the letter,” Whitman said, suggesting that Diaz Santillan would have received a notification letter two weeks earlier. “Nicky did bring in the mail and sort the mail. If she got a letter two weeks before, she might have been on the lookout for that letter.”
When asked, Whitman said she would take a polygraph test “if it comes to that, absolutely.”
Whitman denied accusations she had mistreated Diaz Santillan, and said that the housekeeper's children often came over to play soccer in the yard. Over nine years of employment, Diaz Santillan became part of her extended family.
She said she fired Santillan after she confessed to being in the country illegally in June 2009.
“She had lied to us for nine years,” Whitman said. “It breaks my heart to say that, but that's the truth. We said, 'Listen, Nicky, you've got to solve this issue. You've got to go home and apply in a more organized way to be here in the United States.'”
Whitman said she didn't report Diaz Santillan to immigration authorities because she didn't want to make an example of her. She also said she didn't offer to help her find an immigration lawyer, because Whitman's lawyer told her there was nothing that could be done for Diaz Santillan.
She also said she didn't disclose the issue herself during the campaign because she didn't want Diaz Santillan to be singled out.
“Nicky had worked for us for 10 years,” she said. “I was very fond of Nicky. I didn't want to make an example of her.”
Whitman's campaign consultant, Mike Murphy, said that Diaz Santillan might have confessed her immigration status to Whitman out of concern over the campaign. Whitman announced her candidacy in February 2009. He also said it was suspicious that Allred would not allow journalists to interview Diaz Santillan.
Murphy predicted that as the housekeeper story plays out, Whitman will get a bump in the polls.
Harsh stood at her side throughout the press conference, but did not speak.
Whitman's patron in politics, Mitt Romney, also faced a scandal during his 2008 presidential campaign after it was reported that he had hired illegal immigrant gardeners.
After the Whitman press conference, Allred held her own news conference, producing a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration informing them that Diaz Santillan's Social Security number didn't match up with the SSA's records.
And then, the big reveal: At the bottom of the letter, in what appeared to be the handwriting of Griffith Harsh IV, was written, “Nicky, please check this. Thanks.”
Allred, who is turning out to be the best thing to ever happen to Jerry Brown, then unloaded, saying Whitman had been exposed as a “liar and a hypocrite.”
In a 2:30 p.m. conference call, Whitman's strategists said that Harsh doesn't remember seeing the letter. They also argued that the letter states it is not a determination that Diaz Santillan was in the country illegally, and that it would have been illegal to fire Diaz Santillan because of the letter.