Meg Whitman: Liar?

The Whitman housekeeper saga has now become a major problem for the Republican candidate for governor, as Brian just mentioned. Still, there is an important aspect of this that deserves focus: did Meg Whitman lie to the media this morning when she said she didn’t know about Nicky Diaz Santillan’s immigration status prior to June 2009, and that she and her husband didn’t know about the 2003 Social Security letter alerting them to the possible issue?

At a hastily-arranged news conference in Santa Monica this morning, Whitman said the following, according to the LA Times:

Whitman said neither she nor her husband had seen a letter from the Social Security Administration that said the housekeeper’s name and Social Security number did not match. Shortly after Whitman’s news conference concluded, attorney Gloria Allred held her own news conference, where she unveiled the 2003 document, with handwriting on it that she said was Harsh’s.

The Whitman campaign, in full crisis mode, suddenly changed its story this afternoon:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s husband said in a prepared statement this afternoon that he does not recall receiving a letter from the Social Security Administration about a discrepancy between his then-housekeeper’s name and Social Security number, but he said it is possible he did receive it and referred it to the housekeeper to follow up.

In a conference call with reporters, Whitman adviser Tom Hiltachk said the so-called “no-match” letter would not have given Whitman or her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, reason to believe their housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, was in the country illegally.

Whitman adviser Rob Stutzman said it is likely, if the letter is authentic, that Harsh referred it to Diaz Santillan so that she would complete the paperwork necessary to receive Social Security benefits.

In a prepared statement read by Stutzman, Harsh said, “Neither Meg nor I believed there was a problem with Nicky’s legal status.” He said he did not show Whitman the letter.

Let’s pause for a moment to consider what just happened. Whitman said one thing this morning. Gloria Allred then proved Whitman wrong. Now Whitman’s campaign is saying something totally different as a result of Allred producing the smoking gun.

The campaign’s new defense, which we might as well call the Sgt. Schulz defense, is not remotely credible. Either we’re supposed to believe that Whitman and her husband never talk about important things, or that Whitman was kept out of the loop of an extremely important matter. Neither of these make much sense, but if they are true, they show Whitman to be an incompetent manager of her own household. (But then we already knew that.)

Whitman clearly thought she could lie to the media and they’d just take it. But she didn’t count on Gloria Allred, who has been putting on a clinic in how to maximize media attention. Whitman has now lost an entire week to this scandal, while serious questions are being asked about her competency, her honesty, and her hypocrisy.

The Whitman campaign’s other line of defense is to claim that somehow Allred has coordinated this with Jerry Brown. Allred, who is very much her own woman (as anyone that’s spent any amount of time in Southern California would know), explained at yesterday’s news conference that she attacked Brown pretty strongly in a book she’d written. Additionally, Allred has tangled with Brown in the past, including this anecdote from the late 1970s or early 1980s:

She once held a press conference in the office of California governor Jerry Brown to cast media attention on his threat to veto a bill authorizing payroll deductions for child support payments. When the news media arrived, Allred and a group of women and children had hung diapers across the governor’s office. Brown reversed his position and signed the bill.

It’s just not credible that Allred, who has no reason to play along with the Brown campaign, would be representing Santillan just because she wants to deny Whitman the governor’s office. Allred’s entire career has been built around a very media-savvy and deeply feminist defense of women who have been abused and exploited by people in positions of power (like Santillan) or by violent men (like the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, or Amber Frey). So it just doesn’t make sense that Allred is doing this for Brown.

Finally, SEIU is poised to plunge the knife into Whitman’s back with this ad at right, titled “9 años,” a Spanish-language ad mentioning the scandal while also reminding its Latino audience that Pete Wilson is playing a major role on Whitman’s campaign. The ad buy is said to be in the $2 million range.

What we see here is the hubris that is typical of corporate power. Whitman exploited a worker, believing she had every right to do exactly that. When she couldn’t exploit her any more, she brutally cut her off. When this was exposed, she first lied about it, hoping the media would cover for her. Then she started changing her story, again hoping the media would play along.

All in order to continue to appease her right-wing base with anti-immigrant politics.

I am not yet convinced this will be the end of Whitman’s hopes for becoming governor. There’s still 4 weeks left, and she has a LOT of money left to spend. But this shows us the real Meg Whitman, and it confirms all the concerns and worries that voters already have had, that had earned Whitman a 50% disapproval rating even before anyone heard of Nicky Diaz Santillan.

12 thoughts on “Meg Whitman: Liar?”

  1. For the first time the entire campaign. Between a Brown campaign that started on Labor Day and a media that sat quietly and took it while Whitman held scripted events and refused to answer real questions (Chron ed board snub included), for the first time in a year, Meg Whitman is off message. And surprise, surprise- she’s floundering.

    With blood in the water for a story that’s sensational instead of political, the floodgates are open and there’s cover to unload on Whitman in the media. The fundamentals of this race have changed.

  2. but he said it is possible he did receive it and referred it to the housekeeper to follow up.

    This is great, then you happen to forget that this ever happened. Why in hell would you give it to the person in question to work on. If none it’s true I sure wouldn’t want this clown outfit to run the state.

  3. He may have forgotten the letter initially, but once Gloria Allred showed up on stage talking about letters from SSA that would have triggered most people’s memories. He had time to come clean at Whitman’s second presser in Santa Monica this a.m. Besides, the house keeper alleges she saw multiple opened letters in the Whitman trash.

    Easy way for Whitman to come clean as said yesterday is for her to authorize the release of all correspondence from SSA in regard to Diaz’s employment.

    There is still the tax issue to sort through in the next few weeks as well =)

    A sharp reporter at the Whitman presser asked for a list of all domestic help the Whitman’s employed as well as the name of the women who filled in for Diaz while on Maternity leave. Any bets that temp is undocumented as well?

  4. This entire story smells of a political set-up…. why does a housekeeper who left the household need a lawyer now? …and why Gloria Allred?… and why did she read a prepared statement instead of speaking directly to the camera?…. didn’t the family get the housekeeper through an employment agency?…. you ever hired a building contractor?  did you check the status of everyone who worked on your house?  … this housekeeper lied to the family and when she came clean they sent her packing…. sounds reasonable to me…. Meg stinks… but not because of this.  Maybe some folks here just can’t be objective or fair.  That’s okay… it ain’t a courtroom!

  5. Whitman was clearly lying– as was the L.A. Times, which this afternoon online had Whitman speculating about why “Nicky” might have stolen mail from them, after Allred had already shown everyone the handwritten annotations before the article was even posted. The Times deliberately left out this little tidbit, letting Whitman slander her ex-maid instead, and then gave her three complete closing paragraphs to slander Jerry Brown to boot.

    It’s incredible too how the local media has been covering for this woman tonight– including pumping up the angle that the SS letter didn’t say that “Nicky” was illegal. But it did bounce back her SS number, which always requires employer validation. Every employer knows that when SS bounces back an immigrant’s SS number it means that they very probably aren’t legal. And then they’re supposed to check to make sure. That’s the whole idea.

    And where did all the SS contributions go during those 8 years? Did the Whitmans receive additional SS letters alerting them to the same thing? Of course they did– all Gloria A. had was just the first one in 2003 that Hubbie had handed over to Nicky.

    As to Brown being involved– there’s nothing culpable about it if he was. Remember how Bob Mulholland ran down that aisle years ago waving statements from witnesses who had seen Bruce Hershenson in a strip club with Ken Minyard?

    That’s how Boxer won her first term– she had been trailing him badly before that scandal broke. It’s called politics, and the opponent’s motives are irrelevant to the charge itself.

  6. So no one has asked Whitman for the proof that Jerry Brown is 100% behind this. Where’s the beef Meg?

    Ms Diaz Santillan has a right to an attorney.  She could get anyone she wants who can help her.  This woman has been accused of stealing the Harsh Whitman mail, while having the temerity to ask for raises. mileage and to be treated as a human.

    All the while Whitman has her hand over her forehead, weeping wailing about the Mexicans who have done her wrong.  Oh please, cada de plancha, sell it to your xenophobic friends who will still vote for you.

    We don’t forget, we didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us.

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