Brown aide caught on audio tape calling Calif. gubernatorial rival Whitman an offensive name

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brown campaign apologizes for offensive comment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has apologized to Republican rival Meg Whitman after an aide referred to her in a recorded voicemail message as a “whore” because of her attempt to curry favor with a law enforcement union.

The comment was caught on a voicemail message Brown left for an official at the Los Angeles Police Protective League after the group endorsed Whitman in early September.

The recording, which the union released to the Los Angeles Times, captured a conversation after Brown apparently thought he had hung up.

Whitman has promoted 401(k)-style pensions for government employees except current public safety workers. On the tape, Brown can be overheard saying that’s the reason Whitman won the endorsement.

“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.

As he and others discuss whether to run an ad on the subject, an aide who appears to be a woman says, “What about saying she’s a whore?”

“Well, I’m going to use that,” Brown responds. A campaign spokesman later said the reference was to an ad about Whitman cutting deals with police unions, not about using the derogatory term.

Whitman campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei called the remark “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California. This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman.”

Brown campaign manager Steven Glazer issued a statement apologizing.

“This was a jumbled and often inaudible recording of a private conversation,” he said. “At times our language was salty. We apologize to Ms. Whitman and anyone who may have been offended.”

On Friday, after the story appeared on the Times’ website the night before, Brown’s campaign announced an endorsement from the California chapter of the National Organization for Women.

“For California women, actions speak louder than words,” California NOW President Patty Bellasalma said in a statement accompanying the endorsement.

Brown has received a large share of support this year from public employee unions, leading Whitman to accuse him of being beholden to them and thus unable to enact real change if he is elected in November.

The exchange between Brown and his aides inadvertently reveals another campaign dynamic — that Whitman also has courted unions representing public employees — in this case, law enforcement.

An independent expenditure group that has received most of its funding from the Los Angeles Police Protective League has spent $450,000 backing Whitman in the general election.

Whitman has promised to exempt law enforcement from her proposals to privatize public employee retirement programs. She has called for 401(k)-style pension plans for newly hired state employees as one step to address a shortfall in the state’s pension funds.

She promoted the exemption for current public safety employees last March during an appearance before a meeting of statewide law enforcement groups.

Brown said then that Whitman’s plan was faulty. Taking as much as 75 percent of state workers out of the pension program would leave it underfunded and unable to continue paying existing financial and medical benefits, he said.

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