The Whitman campaign's reaction was to try to discredit both the ex-employee and her attention-loving attorney, Gloria Allred. But perhaps a better place for attention is the complexity that this, once again, seems to raise when it comes to how to reform the country's broken immigration system.
The typical frenzy of Los Angeles gossip news descended this morning on Allred's offices, who's representing the former Whitman housekeeper, Nicky Diaz. How much frenzy? The event was streamed live online by celebrity gossip site TMZ. Not sure most TMZ users are interested, but what the heck.
Whitman senior adviser Rob Stutzman put it this way: "Hey, what's a California governor's race without Gloria Allred inserting herself into it?"
(Stutzman may be having a slight case of Allred heartburn today; he was a top adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger when the blockbuster candidate found himself on the opposite side of Allred and a woman scorned in 2003.)
Diaz told reporters (and TMZ's online audience) that Whitman treated her badly, both before and at the time of her firing three months before the former CEO announced her candidacy for governor. And she called into question Whitman's version of the events -- namely, whether the candidate was informed of questions about Diaz before that fateful discussion.
The Whitman campaign sprang into action this morning, convening a conference call with reporters before Diaz and Allred even sat down in front of the microphones. And they provided reporters with a set of documents that appear to show a Social Security card, a California drivers license, and a signature on a federal immigration form (PDFs here).
A few minutes before the event, Whitman's top campaign advisers dismissed any notion that the GOP candidate knew she was hiring someone in the country illegally. And here's what Whitman herself said about it when asked by reporters at a pre-planned campaign stop in San Jose: "As soon as we found that she was an illegal immigrant, then we actually did what we had to do as an employer, was to let her go."
(At bottom of this posting, a web bonus: the entire unedited Q&A Whitman did with reporters today.)
Whitman made two comments, in particular, that seem on point with the larger issue -- she suggested this may be a good example of the need to have a better federal E-Verify system that would reassure would-be employers.
She also punted when asked why she didn't reveal this information... herself... much earlier. "I don't know," said Whitman. "It never came up."
That may be, but now Whitman will be spending an awful lot of time talking about it for a few days (especially Saturday's Fresno debate sponsored, in part, by Univision) that are pretty close to election day. In fact, mail ballots go out in many counties on Monday.
But the premise of that question is interesting. Immigration has been one of Whitman's toughest issues all year long -- from the primary scorched earth fight she had to wage with Steve Poizner to her subsequent comments, and the reaction some of those comments produced just last month.
And last night she said this:
We do have to hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers, and we do have to enforce that law.
If Whitman had fully disclosed this issue on which she says she's innocent before the primary immigration fight and used it as some kind of teachable moment (Even I found myself stuck in a system that has failed us)... would she be where she is today? Might it also have given her a way to be up close and personal in a campaign that's largely been marked by carefully crafted events?
That's a lot of armchair quarterbacking, no doubt. But as the bickering over Allred and allegations of being mean and more keep playing out elsewhere... it's interesting to step back and wonder if this doesn't prove the point -- assuming Whitman's version is correct -- that illegal immigration reform is much tougher than the rhetoric lets on?
Here are Meg Whitman's comments to reporters today, starting with an allegation by attorney Allred that the feds had sent some sort of letter expressing concern about Diaz's status before she was fired.