OAKLAND — Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder denied brandishing a gun against his former fiancee and former producer Alexandra Datig after POLITICO detailed Datig’s allegations of abuse earlier Thursday.
“I have never brandished a gun at anyone. I grew up in South Central,” Elder said in a series of three tweets Thursday. “I know exactly how destructive this type of behavior is. It’s not me, and everyone who knows me knows it’s not me. These are salacious allegations.”
Elder, 69, has quickly become the GOP frontrunner in the race to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the California recall election. The talk show host entered the contest just over a month ago and has quickly gathered support from conservatives across the state, along with a growing number of endorsements and campaign contributions. Polls show Newsom clinging to a narrow lead to defeat the recall, a shocking turnabout in one of the most Democratic states in the nation.
Elder has kept his personal life private during his three decades as a media personality, and he has increasingly limited media access to outlets that aren’t right-leaning, giving few opportunities to inquire about his past. Voters statewide have already received mail ballots ahead of the Sept. 14 election.
Datig, a 51-year-old conservative commentator and blogger, told POLITICO that she broke off an 18-month engagement with Elder in 2015 after he waved a gun at her while high on marijuana. She also said that Elder repeatedly demanded that she get a “Larry’s Girl” tattoo to show her devotion to him, while he pressured her to sign a nondisclosure agreement. POLITICO has obtained copies of the NDA, separation agreement, and communications between Elder and Datig.
Elder and his campaign ignored repeated requests for comment prior to publication. His comments on Twitter shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday were his first statements on the allegations. He only specifically addressed the gun allegation.
“People do not get into public life precisely because of this type of politics of personal destruction. I am not going to dignify this with a response — it’s beneath me,” Elder tweeted. “While my opponents and the Newsom campaign would love to keep voters distracted, I am going to stay focused on the issues that inspired 1.7 million Californians to petition for this recall.”
Datig’s allegations shook up the recall race Thursday just as his GOP rivals have begun criticizing Elder over his past comments related to women’s knowledge of political issues and place in the workforce. Three of his top Republican opponents — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessperson John Cox and Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) — are scheduled to appear in an evening debate that Elder will not attend, the third time he has declined to appear.
Nathan Click, a Newsom campaign spokesperson, called for further investigation of Elder in the wake of the POLITICO report.
“This shows the incredible stakes of this vote,” Click said in a statement. “These are serious allegations that deserve a full accounting and investigation.”
GOP candidate Kiley also weighed in. “While I have no personal knowledge of these events, what has been reported is very disturbing,” he said in a statement to POLITICO. “I believe that any woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, and Ms. Datig’s deeply troubling account should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Mr. Elder should be given every opportunity to respond.”
Republican recall candidate and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner weighed in on Twitter as well: “While @GavinNewsom is a failed governor with massive corruption and fraud we have another candidate in the recall that is a violent womanizer and too far right for CA.”
Orrin Heatlie, a conservative GOP activist who launched the movement to recall Newsom — and remains one of its main drivers — defended POLITICO’s reporting Thursday on Twitter.
Elder appeared on the Fresno-based conservative radio station KMJ Thursday following publication of the story, but he did not address the allegations. And for the second time, he canceled a radio interview with San Francisco-based KQED Thursday afternoon minutes before he was supposed to tape the station’s Political Breakdown podcast, according to KQED political editor Scott Shafer.
Datig, who writes and edits the Front Page Index political website, said she is speaking out now because there is “too much at stake” in California’s recall for her to stay in the shadows. Datig portrayed him as a marijuana user who would often become threatening or insistent with her. She provided POLITICO with photos and videos, in addition to the legal documents, to substantiate her claims.
She said she had no connection with other gubernatorial campaigns but spoke out because Elder’s election would be “a disaster” for California.