WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's appearance at a Virginia fundraiser this week for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has been canceled.
McDonnell's campaign said the fundraiser, to be held at a private home in northern Virginia, was canceled last week because "scheduling reasons prevented it from happening." John Backus, a businessman who was scheduled to host the gathering and has known Whitman for years, said the fundraiser could not be postponed because his wife is giving birth, but he told the campaign to add his name to another area fundraiser later in the month. He said Whitman wouldn't be attending the re-scheduled event.
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Whitman, said the fundraiser was canceled because "our campaign has a scheduling conflict."
The calendar re-shuffling might be good news for Whitman, who is now seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination in California and faces a potentially difficult three-way primary. After all, national Democrats have been eager to draw attention to McDonnell's controversial master's thesis that called working women "detrimental" to families, and they have skewered the Republicans who have journeyed to Virginia since the document was uncovered.
Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal and Newt Gingrich have all been labeled conservative extremists by the Democratic National Committee for campaigning with McDonnell. On Monday, the DNC released a Web video with a warning for potential McDonnell surrogates: "You campaign with Bob McDonnell," the video cautions, "you're playing with fire."
Whitman didn't even have to make the trip to be targeted: DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan issued a tough statement on learning that the event was canceled, claiming that Whitman - one of the country's most successful female executives when she stepped down as eBay CEO in in 2007 - wouldn't have had the opportunity to shine "in Bob McDonnell's Virginia.
"With his radical views on women anyone that Bob McDonnell touches is toxic, and now that the closed door event's become public, it's not surprising that she backed out," Sevugan said in an e-mail to CNN. "I'm sure Meg Whitman didn't want Californians to know that she was not only embracing, but was raising money for, a candidate who believes that women working outside the home are a 'detriment to the family' and voted against the principle of equal pay for equal work."
"Indeed, in Bob McDonnell's Virginia, Meg Whitman would not have been able to rise to position she rose to at eBay," he added.
Story updated at 9:29 p.m. EST to clarify Backus' description of the events