In a well-publicized press conference this morning, Meg Whitman's former housekeeper accused California's Republican nominee for governor of verbal abuse and exploitation. Nicky Diaz has hired Gloria Allred, a high-profile laywer who represented a stunt woman accusing Arnold Schwarzenegger of sexual assault during his 2003 campaign for governor (the suit was dismissed). Allred's current endeavor, just a month before the election, is sparking a bit of deja vu.
In Diaz's and Whitman's story, both parties agree that Whitman fired Diaz in June 2009. Whitman claims that Diaz, worried about campaign investigations, told her that she was in the country illegally, after which Whitman had no choice but to let her go. Diaz claims that Whitman knew about her illegal status before last June but that she fired her after Diaz asked for help obtaining legal residency. Allred alleges that Diaz was "exploited, disrespected, humiliated, and emotionally and financially abused" by Whitman and her husband.
The Los Angeles Times recounts the narrative Diaz told today:
"I told her I don't have papers to work here and need her help," the worker said at a press conference in attorney Gloria Allred's office. Whitman's husband "was very angry and said, 'I told you, I told you she was going to bring us problems.' Ms. Whitman turned to him and said, 'Calm down, calm down.' "
She said Whitman's husband "yelled" at her. "I was crying for fear and intimidation. With a face full of tears, I told them, 'I believe in people. And I believe people deserve a chance. I also told them I don't wish them any harm. I just wanted their help.
She said Whitman walked her to the door and said, "I don't know what I can do, but let me see what my lawyer can do."
She said Whitman later left her a voicemail telling her she talked to her lawyer. "She said, 'I cannot help you. And don't say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job ... and from now on you don't know me, and I don't know you. You have never seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?' "
"I was shocked and hurt that Ms. Whitman would treat me this way after nine years. ... She was throwing me away like a piece of garbage."
In a statement emailed to reporters, Whitman gave her side of the story:
"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."