A debate between California's gubernatorial candidates Saturday centered on the controversy surrounding GOP nominee Meg Whitman's illegal immigrant housekeeper.

Whitman blamed Democratic nominee Jerry Brown for sparking the controversy while Brown accused Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, of not taking responsibility for her actions, according to the Associated Press

"Don't run for governor if you can't stand up on your own two feet," Brown said at the event at Cal State-Fresno.

AP reporter Juliet Williams said on Twitter that the candidates had to be taken offstage after the debate got heated over the issue: "Sheer madness at #CAgov debate as candidates are taken offstage in the midst of heated exchange over maidgate."

Brown, the state attorney general, and Whitman had been locked in a close race to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) but the housekeeper controversey has forced Whitman into a defensive stance.

According to her account, she employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper named Nicky Diaz Santillan for nine years but did not know her legal status. They fired her in June 2009 after she admitted she was in the country illegally, Whitman admitted this week.

The housekeeper's lawyer has also argued that Whitman and her husband should have known her immigration status due to a Social Security Administration mailed to their house in 2003.

Polls show Brown with a narrow lead over Whitman one month away from Election Day.