Nagourney Claims Dem-Inspired Scandal in Cali 'A Distracting Embarrassment' for Meg Whitman

Saturday's front-page story by Adam Nagourney on the race for governor of California made much of the latest scandal fostered by Democrats, that Republican candidate Meg Whitman had allegedly knowingly employed a housekeeper she knew was in the country illegally. The headline, "A Campaign Where Money Can't Do It All," is a reference to what Nagourney (always hypersensitive to Democratic virtues) sees as a struggling Whitman campaign. She is currently tied with Democrat and two-time California governor Jerry Brown in polls. But Nagourney quickly got to a scandal being spread by Democrats about Whitman's former housekeeper.

Ms. Whitman's most recent problem emerged as she sought to explain this week how she had employed for nine years a Mexican housekeeper who was an illegal immigrant. Ms. Whitman has been an advocate of penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants. But she said she had not known of the housekeeper's illegal status until the woman informed her last year, and she sought to provide documentation to back up that claim.

The episode has proved a distracting embarrassment that has raised questions about Ms. Whitman's credibility and has threatened to derail a key element of any strategy to win election in a largely Democratic state: appealing to Latino voters. As she has sought to explain what happened, Ms. Whitman said she had fired the housekeeper on the spot, even as she described the maid as a close part of her family, and seemed undisturbed by the idea that her onetime friend and employee might be deported.

Carolyn Lochhead provided the other side of the story in the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip Gabriel Malor at the Ace of Spades blog).

Whether or not Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying her former housekeeper's false documents did not match its records, Whitman did not act unlawfully by keeping the housekeeper employed, immigration lawyers said Thursday.

In fact, had she gone ahead and fired Nicandra Diaz Santillan based on such a letter, she would have exposed herself to potential anti-discrimination violations, lawyers said.

As for Nagourney's transparently phony concern over the likelihood of the former maid being deported, shouldn't the finger of blame point to Brown's Democratic allies who publicized Ms. Santillan's illegal status in the first place?

Nagourney made an effort to portray Whitman as on the defensive:

Ms. Whitman has spent much of the campaign explaining why she had rarely voted before entering politics. Her record at eBay, including layoffs under her watch, has been the subject of scrutiny. And she has been assailed by independent fact-checkers for running what were described as misleading or false advertisements attacking Mr. Brown by portraying him as a big spender when he served as governor of California in the 1970s.


The dispute over the maid is potentially problematic because, until now, Ms. Whitman had shown signs of making inroads among Latino voters. After assuming a relatively tough line on illegal immigration in the primary - though explicitly avoiding the tough anti-illegal immigrant law passed in Arizona - she moved, the moment the general election began, to appeal to Latino voters with an extensive and expensive Spanish-language campaign that extended from television airwaves to bus stops to billboards that read, "Más Trabajos," or more jobs.