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Brown, Whitman debate: Housekeeper issue leads to heated exchange

October 2, 2010 |  4:50 pm

Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown exchanged heated, direct words Saturday when Whitman was asked about a housekeeper she employed for more than nine years who was in the country illegally.

Whitman said Democrats were using her former housekeeper as a political pawn. Jerry Brown responded that Whitman's handling of the story this week made her unqualified to be governor.

The former Whitman employee, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, appeared at two news conferences this week with attorney Gloria Allred to discuss her time as Whitman's employee.

Whitman accused Brown of using Diaz Santillan to score political points.

"The Nicky I saw at the press conference three days ago was not the Nicky that I knew for nine years," Whitman said. "And you know what my first clue was? She kept referring to me as Ms. Whitman. For the nine years she worked for me she called me Meg and I called her Nicky.

"You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions," Whitman said to Brown.

Brown said Whitman still refuses to take responsibility for her actions and that shows she is unfit to be California's next governor.

"Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, 'Hey I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here,' " Brown said. "You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions but you don’t take accountability. You can't be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, 'Yup, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.' "

After the rhetorical fireworks, technical difficulties stalled the debate. Both candidates have left the stage while the technical issues are being resolved.

-- Michael J. Mishak and Seema Mehta in Fresno