Meg Whitman Called 'Whore' in Jerry Brown Phone Message

VIDEO: Salty language surfaces in the California race for governor as Jerry Browns aide calls Meg Whitman a whore.PlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH Jerry Brown Aide Calls Meg Whitman a 'Whore'

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the state's Democratic candidate for governor, left a phone message in early September for a union official whose endorsement he was seeking, but apparently forgot to hang up -- because a lively discussion between him and some staffers afterward is caught on tape. And either Brown or a staffer -- there is some dispute -- uses the word "whore" to describe his Republican rival Meg Whitman.

The recording, obtained by the Los Angeles Times from the L.A. Police Union, is muffled and hard to hear. But the word "whore" is definitely thrown around several times at the notion of Whitman making a special deal with union officials to protect their pensions.

"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.

Then someone says, "What about saying she's a whore?"

It is not entirely clear if that last part is said by Brown or an aide. Listen to the audio here.

"Well, I'm going to use that," Brown responds a moment later. "It proves you've cut a secret deal to protect the pensions."

Whitman's campaign quickly jumped on the leaked recording and the use of such a derogatory term.

"The use of the term 'whore' is an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California. This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman. At the very least Mr. Brown tacitly approved this despicable slur and he himself may have used the term at least once on this recording," said Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.

Brown's spokesman apologized.

"At times our language was salty. We apologize to Ms. Whitman and anyone who may have been offended," Brown's campaign manager Steven Glazer said in a statement Thursday night.

Beyond the use of the bad word in the recording, Brown seems to be saying that if he won't give the union pensions special treatment in pension reform plans, they will send their endorsement to Whitman. Brown says on the call that it seems who he says has told the unions she will cut them a special deal on their police pensions.

Did Jerry Brown Call Meg Whitman a 'Whore'?

The L.A. Police Protective League endorsed Whitman in September, although her aides said there was no special deal. Whitman has said on the campaign trail she will exempt California state fire firefighters, highway patrol officers, and other front line safety officials from her plan to move from pensions to a 401k-style system for public employees. Los Angeles would retain control over its law enforcement pensions.

Republican Carly Fiorina, who is running for Senate in California, told ABC's Jake Tapper that the comments were "an insult to all women."

Women who support Whitman said they see a double standard in reaction to comments.

"If it was a Democratic woman, all the Democratic organizations of women would be holding press conferences and demanding a public apology," said Nicole Parra, a former Democratic assemblywoman from California's Central Valley. She is no longer affiliated with either party, and is working for the Whitman campaign to reach out to Democrats and Independents.

"As female candidates, we're always put to a different standard, whether it's how we dress, whether we're married," said Parra. She said Brown showed a lack of leadership when he did not immediately correct his staffer during the recorded conversation.

The recording of Brown, released three weeks after it was made, is the second late campaign surprise to rock the California gubernatorial race.

Last week, the narrative of the race was overtaken when celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, a Democrat with nominal previous ties to Brown, brought forward Whitman's former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, who was employed by the billionaire former eBay CEO for nine years, even though she was in the country illegally.

Whitman pointed to paperwork where the housekeeper claimed to be a legal resident. But Allred and the housekeeper produced a letter from the Social Security Administration to Whitman pointing out that Santillan's social security number did not match her name in government records. The letter had a note written from Whitman's husband to Santillan.

The race between Brown and Whitman has gotten more contentious through the summer and fall. Whitman has spent more than $130 million on the race, much of it from her own personal fortune. Brown has far less in the bank, but has gotten help from service unions, which have spent heavily on advertising for him.