California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing criticism for trying to save face after he appeared to throw Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., under the bus earlier this week when he pledged to appoint a Black woman to fill her Senate seat should she step down.
Christine Pelosi, a former executive for the state Democratic Party, called it a “very bad look” for Newsom, whom she hinted was attempting to defend himself against a recall effort to force him from office.
A former communications director for Feinstein, Gil Duran, wrote an opinion article in The Sacramento Bee defending Feinstein and accusing Newsom of stabbing her in the back.
“By dangling Feinstein’s seat, Newsom hopes to shore up support as he enters a challenging year,” Duran wrote. “The only problem: Feinstein has four years left in this term.”
Hope Warschaw, a longtime Feinstein ally and donor from Santa Monica, was upset with the remarks and said Newsom “made a mistake,” The Associated Press reported.
Twitter users also appeared to be confused after the MSNBC interview aired, asking whether Feinstein had announced she was retiring.
Feinstein, 87, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that she had no plans to retire early, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Newsom said during an interview with MSNBC on Monday that he had several names in mind to replace Feinstein as he committed to choosing a Black woman.
“I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind,” Newsom said during the interview.
The California governor clarified on Tuesday that he was answering a hypothetical question.
“It was a hypothetical. I hope she serves out her entire term,” Newsom said. “She’s a magnificent, extraordinary person and, and I think there’s been a little too much punditry around her current term. And I think we all do a lot better if we move away from it.”
Newsom took heat after he failed to appoint a Black woman to replace Vice President Kamala Harris, who had vacated her Senate seat to join President Biden’s White House and had been the only Black female senator in the chamber. Instead, he chose former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Some Democrats became frustrated with Feinstein after it was revealed that she did not immediately come forward with allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh, despite that the accuser had asked for her confidence.
She also drew criticism during Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing for one of the questions she asked about Justice Barrett’s faith – and for thanking and hugging Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the conclusion of the hearing.
Meanwhile, Newsom is under pressure as a recall campaign has garnered the necessary number of signatures to trigger a recall election.
Democrats recently launched an effort to defend Newsom from the recall, which has the support of prominent senators including Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.