Elder disputes showing gun to ex-fiancee in heated argument

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former fiancee of Larry Elder said Thursday that the conservative radio talk show host now running for governor in California showed her a gun during a heated argument in 2015.

Elder, widely seen as the leader in the Republican field running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in next month’s recall election, issued a statement saying “I have never brandished a gun at anyone.” Elder, who is seeking to become California’s first Black governor, noted that he grew up in South Los Angeles, an area with high violent crime.

“I know exactly how destructive this type of behavior is,” he said.

Alexandra Datig’s accusation, first reported by Politico, comes with less than four weeks until the Sept. 14 election and at a time when mail-in ballots already have arrived at voters’ homes. Elder said he intended to “stay focused on the issues” that inspired the recall drive by Republicans upset with Newsom’s progressive policies and handling of the pandemic.

His campaign said he was planning weekend rallies.

Datig, 51 and a longtime Los Angeles resident, said she worked on Elder’s show and they lived together during their 18-month romantic relationship from 2013 to 2015. A letter and other records provided by Datig to The Associated Press – including an April 6, 2015, email in which she wrote about the collapse of their engagement — sketched a portrait of an emotionally abusive relationship in which Elder routinely was using medicinal marijuana to excess.

Datig claims Elder was high during the 2015 argument and went to a cabinet where he kept his gun “and made sure it was in my view.”

“He did not point it at me, but he wanted to make sure that I knew that he was checking” to see it was loaded, she told the AP.

Threatening another person with a firearm could be a criminal offense but Datig said she never reported it to police.

Elder did not specifically address the claim about cannabis use in questions submitted to his campaign by AP. His statement in response to Datig’s claims of abuse referred broadly to “salacious allegations.”

“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 wrote. A short time later he tweeted: “They’re coming at me with every dirty trick because they know what’s coming on September 14.”

Datig supports one of Elder’s Republican rivals, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Earlier this week Faulconer began targeting Elder with criticism and specifically questioning his attitudes about women, noting among other things that Elder had written that employers should be able to ask women if and when they plan to get pregnant.

“Larry Elder doesn’t have the judgment or character to lead our state,” Faulconer said in response to Datig’s allegations.

Another Republican in the race, state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, said in a statement that he found Datig’s claims disturbing.

“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,” he said.

However, in a televised debate Thursday night with Faulconer, Kiley and fellow GOP candidate John Cox, the issue never came up.

Elder entered the race in July and Datig said she waited until now to come forward because she initially didn’t think he would be competitive.

“I didn’t take it seriously but when Larry started to trend and become the frontrunner, I became extremely concerned,” she said.

The documents provided by Datig described months of emotional distress from the unraveling romantic and business relationship. “I feel trapped and afraid,” she wrote in the mail.

Datig also provided the AP with a copy of a confidentiality agreement she signed in 2014 barring her from speaking about the “personal and business affairs” of Elder and his business, Laurence A. Elder & Associates, Inc. She said she was breaking it to go public with her accusations.

A March 31, 2015, letter from her attorney to Elder asked for $6,000 in monthly support for Datig for one year, to cover expenses including rent, car and health care costs. She also asked for $195,000 for public relations, marketing and other services she said she provided for his show.

The two ultimately signed an agreement on April 13, 2015, for Elder to pay Datig $20,000 and cover the cost of her $5,000 legal retainer and $185 to dry clean her wedding dress. Elder agreed he and his assistant would sign a nondisclosure agreement regarding anything to do with Datig, that he would write her a letter of recommendation for her work product, and that they two would “halt mutual insults.”

Datig refers to herself as a sex trafficking survivor and has publicly disclosed working for so-called former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who was convicted in the mid-1990s of running a high-priced call-girl ring, a conviction that was later overturned. Fleiss was later sentenced to federal prison for cheating on her taxes and laundering call-girl profits. In a 2013 interview with KCAL-TV, Datig described becoming an informant on Fleiss.

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Ronayne reported from Sacramento.

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