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PolitiCal Flashback: Brown aide calls Whitman a 'whore' in voice mail

November 2, 2010 |  3:33 pm

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With the California governor's race in its final hours, PolitiCal will look back throughout the day at some of the key moments in this year's historic contest.

Just when it seemed we might spend the final six weeks of the governor's race talking about Meg Whitman's domestic help, a recorded message from Jerry Brown to a Los Angeles police union official who backed Whitman found its way into the hands of a Los Angeles Times reporter. On the message, either Brown or someone in his inner circle is clearly heard calling Whitman 'a whore.'

The comment came after Brown called the Los Angeles Police Protective League in early September to ask for its endorsement. He left a voice mail message for Scott Rate, a union official. Brown apparently believed he had hung up the phone, but the connection remained intact and the voice mail machine captured an ensuing conversation between Brown and his aides. With evident frustration, Brown discussed the pressure he was under to refuse to reduce public safety pensions or lose law enforcement endorsements to Whitman. Months earlier, Whitman had agreed to exempt public safety officials from key parts of her pension reform plan. “Do we want to put an ad out? … That I have been warned if I crack down on pensions, I will be – that they’ll go to Whitman, and that’s where they’ll go because they know Whitman will give ‘em, will cut them a deal, but I won’t,” Brown said. At that point, what appears to be a second voice interjects: “What about saying she’s a whore?”

The comment was made in the context of Whitman offering a special deal to law-enforcement unions in a bid to earn their endorsements. But the recorded message dominated headlines in the governor's race for the next week, leading up to the candidates' third and final debate in San Rafael, Calif. That debate, moderated by former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, was Whitman's best performance of the three rhetorical exchanges. Brown hedged as he apologized to Whitman for the slur.

Brown at first said he did not agree with the comparison — a statement that drew an audible reproach from the crowd — and sought to question the timing of the release of the "five-week-old private conversation … with garbled transmission." "I will say the campaign apologized promptly and I'm affirming that apology tonight," he said. "You're repeating it to Ms. Whitman?" Brokaw asked. "Yes, I am," Brown said. "It's unfortunate. I'm sorry it happened. I apologize." Whitman, however, told Brown that Californians "deserve better than slurs and personal attacks." "I think every Californian, and especially women, know exactly what's going on here and that is a deeply offensive term to women," she said.

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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo credit: Getty Images

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