California Watch
A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting

October 11, 2010 | Stephanie Rice

From someone in Jerry Brown’s office caught privately calling Meg Whitman a “whore” for allegedly trading pension protection for endorsements to an anonymous Team Whitman aide mocking Brown with a Humpty Dumpty-style nursery rhyme, it’s clear there’s no love lost between the gubernatorial campaigns.

California Watch has been logging the attacks uttered by both sides over at Politics Verbatim. As they enter the final stretch of a hard-fought battle, here’s a look back at some of the more memorable, quotable, mean, witty, and just plain odd insults hurled by both candidates and their dedicated staffers.

June 9, 2010: “It’s like Goebbels.”

If Brown ever runs into a reporter during a weekend jog again, he’ll probably sprint the other way. In one of the most infamous quotes of the campaign, Brown tells KCBS reporter Doug Sovern during a casual meeting on an Oakland street that Whitman’s campaign tactics are “like Goebbels,” the Nazi propagandist.

“Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda,” Brown is quoted as saying on Sovern’s blog. “He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”

Brown later says he didn’t realize the conversation was on the record (Sovern says Brown knew he was a reporter and didn’t ask to go off the record) and that “jogging in the hills with sweaty strangers will no longer result in conversations.”

Aug. 2, 2010: Brown is Humpty-Dumpty?

In an article about President Obama lending some fundraising help to Brown, the Los Angeles Times quotes “a top aide to Whitman” needling Brown, nursery-rhyme style: “It looks like air-raid sirens are sounding in Jerry Inc. world. A panic-stricken John Burton probably called the White House. But all Obama’s horses and all Obama’s men just can’t put one lame campaign back together again.”

Aug. 19, 2010: Flips, flops and flip-flops

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford takes a jab at Whitman, telling the San Francisco Chronicle her positions shift with the political winds. “Meg Whitman flips so hard it makes the party flop,” he says. (Team Brown is fond of the flip-flop theme, even selling actual Meg Whitman flip-flops on its campaign website.)

Sept. 22, 2010: Whitman’s “billionaire bubble”

The Brown camp is relishing the aftermath of Whitman’s impromptu, on-the-record remark that “Fresno looks like Detroit. It’s awful.” Whitman made the comment to the San Jose Mercury News editorial board in reference to Fresno’s struggling economy, and the paper posted it online, along with other interview excerpts.

Brown spokesman Clifford* lashes out in the Fresno Bee (where else?), calling the off-the-cuff comment “classic Meg Whitman.”

“Maybe from inside her billionaire bubble Fresno and Detroit look the same,” Clifford says.

Oct. 7, 2010: “She’s a whore!”

After days of Team Whitman being pummeled by allegations that the billionaire candidate knowingly employed an illegal immigrant, the Brown campaign is suddenly forced to snap into damage-control mode with the release of a tape recording that appears to capture someone in the Brown office calling Whitman a “whore.”

On the tape, first released by the L.A. Times, an angry Brown thinks he has hung up the phone after calling the Los Angeles Police Protective League to ask for its endorsement and launches into a tirade about Whitman making deals with law enforcement in exchange for endorsements.

Problem is, on the other end of that line, the league’s voicemail is still recording. As Brown brainstorms an anti-Whitman ad campaign with his staff, a male voice appears to interject, “She’s a whore!” The Times has the recording. The Sacramento Bee has also posted a slightly clearer version [MP3].

Almost every day, 2010: “Bought and paid for”

It’s not necessarily original or even all that mean, but it has been repeated so often that it merits a mention. Since the beginning of time, Team Whitman has attacked Brown for his relationship with organized labor, telling anyone who would listen that the Democratic candidate is “bought and paid for” by the unions. Brown will repay that support with political favors if elected, Whitman contends.

Oct. 2, 2010: Who’s responsible for Nicky Diaz?

During a debate between Whitman and Brown at UC Davis, both candidates became the most heated when discussing Whitman’s former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, who had accused Whitman of cruelly throwing her out after she’d admitting being in the country illegally.

Whitman accused Brown of being behind an orchestrated attack: “Jerry, you should be ashamed. You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions.”

Brown said Whitman had failed to own up to her mistake: “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,’ You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions, but you don’t take accountability.”

Sept. 9, 2010: Bill Clinton enters the race

Whitman creates waves when she releases an ad using a 1992 clip of Clinton citing a CNN report to attack Brown for being untruthful about his tax record. The CNN journalist who compiled the report, independent fact-checkers and Clinton publicly say the report was wrong – taxes actually ended up lower by the time Brown left office than when he started.

Undeterred, Whitman continues airing the ad, calling it “essentially” true. Clinton calls the spot “a devastatingly good ad – if it had been accurate” and endorses Brown, even after the fired-up attorney general makes an ill-advised reference to the Lewinsky affair at a campaign stop.

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