SOUTH GATE, Calif. — Republican Meg Whitman, who is vying to be California's next governor, said Thursday that a tense altercation with an employee that led to a six-figure financial settlement when she was chief executive of eBay was an "anomaly" that doesn't reflect to her ability to lead the nation's most populous state.
Whitman is promising to introduce steady business leadership to financially reeling Sacramento, but the dispute with the junior employee – in which Whitman physically "guided" her from a conference room – has led Democrats to question her temperament.
Whitman said the altercation taught her "you always have to act professionally, right. You just have to be thoughtful about your interactions. It was an anomaly, and it's one of things that happens in business."
Whitman was in charge of the online auction house three years ago and was preparing for a press event with help from the worker, Young Mi Kim, at eBay headquarters in Silicon Valley. Whitman told reporters that they began arguing, and she eventually "physically guided" the woman from a conference room where they were working.
Whitman did not challenge an account in The New York Times earlier this month, based on anonymous sources who did not witness the altercation, that she shoved Kim during the argument. The newspaper said Kim, who returned to work at eBay, received a settlement of about $200,000.
Whitman spoke at a suburban Los Angeles shoe store, where she made her first public appearance since the newspaper story on the altercation appeared June 15. Her description of the spat with Kim goes beyond comments she made on a talk radio show earlier this week, when she described the argument as only a "verbal dispute."
The California Democratic Party has said the confrontation shows Whitman has an "explosive temperament" that would impair her ability to work in the high-pressure environment at the Capitol. The campaign of her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, accused Whitman of changing her story and withholding facts about what happened at eBay.
"The only thing that is clear is that Whitman doesn't want to tell the whole story, and eBay shareholders paid $200,000 to keep it secret," Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said in an e-mail.
"Was it a verbal confrontation, was it a shove, or something more serious? Was it an anomaly or the kind of thing that happens all the time?" Clifford asked.
Whitman, who was known as a demanding but fair manager at eBay, disagreed that the single dispute in a three-decade business career illuminated an unstable aspect of her character.
"Listen, I bring tremendous strengths to this office. I have worked in business. I have met a payroll," she said. "I know how to get things done, and I am held accountable for results."
Kim is now a senior manager for corporate and executive communications at eBay.
"Young Mi and I settled this professionally," Whitman said. "She came back to eBay and we worked together for nearly a year before I stepped down."
"I'm very proud of how I ran eBay," Whitman added.