From NBC's Mark Murray and Sarah Ford
California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's campaign is responding to accusations that she subjected to "emotional and financial abuse" her former housekeeper, who was working illegally in the country.
Nicky Diaz, who was Whitman's housekeeper from 2000-2009, claimed in a press conference alongside attorney Gloria Allred that Whitman was aware that she was undocumented and that the Republican candidate fired her only after deciding to run for governor. Diaz also said Whitman failed to pay her on time and did not offer her medical leave during her pregnancy.
Allred said that Whitman ignored a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration notifying her of discrepancies in the Social Security number that Diaz provided.
Whitman, who has poured millions of her own money into the close race against Democrat former Gov. Jerry Brown, flatly said in a statement that “the charges are without merit.”
Whitman's campaign held a conference call with reporters - though not allowing follow-up questions – before the press conference to address the allegations.
On June 20, 2009, the campaign said, Diaz came to Whitman and confessed that she was not a legal resident of the U.S. and filed false documents. She was then fired by Whitman.
“As required by law, once we learned she was an illegal worker, I immediately terminated Nicky's employment,” Whitman said in a written statement.”It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I considered Nicky a friend and a part of our extended family.”
The campaign also argued that Allred had given Jerry Brown campaigns contributions in 1982 ($1,000) and in 2006 ($150), and said the timing of this complaint -- 34 days until the election -- was curious.
“I believe Nicky is being manipulated by Gloria Allred for political and financial purposes during the last few weeks of a hotly contested election," the statement read.
*** UPDATE *** A CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday showed Whitman trailing Brown 52 percent to 43 percent.