Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday brushed off comments California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a day earlier, saying he had several replacements in mind if the 87-year-old senator were to retire, according to reports.
“Please, we’re very good friends,” Feinstein told querying reporters after confirming she has no plans to resign, Politico reported. “I don’t think he meant that the way some people thought.”
The governor, a Democrat, sparked the questions Monday when he confirmed to MSNBC’s Joy Reid he had “multiple” names in mind when she asked if he would replace Feinstein with a Black woman if she didn’t finish her term.
His answer that he would replace the long-serving senator with a Black woman started questions of whether she was actually planning to retire and criticisms he was offering the promise of a woman of color for her replacement as a distraction from the mounting recall effort against him.
The petition to recall the governor over his handling of coronavirus lockdowns has gotten more than 2 million signatures, meaning it will likely be on the ballot.
“If you must stab a politician friend in the back, you might as well do it on the Ides of March. That’s the date in 44 B.C. when a group of Roman senators dispatched Julius Caesar,” an opinion writer for the Sacramento Bee wrote of Newsom’s comments about Feinstein.
Feinstein told reporters they were making a “mountain out of a molehill” about Newsom’s remarks. “I don’t know about his plans, but his relationship with me, I think, is good and strong,” she said, according to Politico.
The senator added that she feels “absolutely” fit to serve. “I think that’s pretty obvious.” She has four years left in her current term.
Feinstein has faced questions and criticisms about her mental acuity over the last several months following reports alleging forgetfulness and frustrations over her handling of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court last fall.
Newsom clarified his comments Tuesday, saying he was speaking to “a hypothetical.”
“I hope she serves out her entire term,” he said. “I was asked a direct question, I tend to answer direct questions.” He said in the future he will try to avoid hypotheticals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.