The housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, is being represented by Gloria Allred, a lawyer famous for taking on high-profile cases involving women -- a woman who was a witness in Scott Peterson's trial for the murder of his wife, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson and the various women involved in the Tiger Woods and Jesse James sex scandals. She is a regular face on cable television.
The housekeeper said in a press conference Wednesday that she explained the situation to Whitman because she wanted to become a legal U.S. resident.
"We have no jobs, no food, no place to live, and for that reason we made a decision to come here," the housekeeper said she told Whitman. "I told her that I don't have papers to work here, and we need her help."
Allred said her client wanted to make Whitman's "cold and heartless treatment" of her housekeeper known, and said Whitman was guilty of hypocrisy. Whitman's firing of Diaz, Allred charged, was for political purposes.
The Whitman camp said Diaz was being manipulated by Allred, and that this was a "shameful example of the politics of personal destruction practiced by people like" Allred and her opponent Jerry Brown.
"With the polls tied, it comes as no surprise that the morning after a successful debate for Meg that the sleaze machine of the political left is now focused on the politics of personal destruction," Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera said in a statement. "Gloria Allred is a shameful manipulator and the timing of today's news conference so close to the election should serve as a warning to Californians that they are witnessing dirty political smears at their worst."
This isn't the first abuse allegation against Whitman, the former eBay CEO. The New York Times reported that, in June 2007, Whitman became angry and pushed an eBay employee in an executive conference room at eBay's headquarters.
Whitman is running against Democrat Jerry Brown for the right to replace Arnold Schwarzengger as governor of Califoria. The two squared off in a debate last night in which Whitman -- who has spent $119 million of her own money in the campaign -- said she didn't think "you can buy elections." The TPM Poll Average shows Brown leading Whitman by a margin of 45.9-44.8.
Follow TPM's coverage of the race here.
A statement issued by Whitman shortly after the press conference is below, followed by video from the press conference.
"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."