Schwarzenegger admits 'offensive' behavior with women
Friday, October 3, 2003
SAN DIEGO -- Confronted with fresh allegations that he groped women, Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Thursday for having "behaved badly sometimes" and pleaded with voters just days before California's recall election for the chance to show that he has changed.
The admission came just as the action hero appeared to be picking up steam as the front-runner to replace Gov. Gray Davis in Tuesday's election.
Some political analysts predicted serious harm to Schwarzenegger, whose standing among women voters was poor even before the latest furor.
Taking the stage to chants of "Arnold, Arnold," Schwarzenegger immediately addressed the issue at a campaign event in San Diego to kick off the final leg of his campaign.
"I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful but now I recognize that I offended people," he said.
From this point on, Schwarzenegger said, he would prove he is a "champion for the women." As he made that pledge, the crowd interrupted him with cheers.
Six women's stories
The admission came hours after the Los Angeles Times reported the accusations of six women who accused Schwarzenegger of sexually harassing and groping them over the past three decades.
Three of the women said Schwarzenegger groped their breasts. One said he tried to take her bathing suit off in a hotel elevator, and another said he put his hand up her skirt and grabbed her buttocks. Still another said he pulled her on his lap and asked if she ever had a certain sex act performed on her.
The Times, quoting two of the women by name and the rest anonymously, said the incidents occurred as far back as 1975 and as recently as 2000.
"All is not forgiven. He's got a pattern of this for 30 years, it just doesn't just go away," Karen Pomer, a spokeswoman for the women's group CodePink, said after the apology.
Megan Seely, president of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women, said: "It's clear Schwarzenegger is not safe for women."
But Julie Vandermost, president of the California Women's Leadership Association, a Republican group that endorsed Schwarzenegger, said she was pleased the actor was truthful, and added that his admission does not mean he is an unworthy candidate for governor.
"I don't expect Schwarzenegger to be groping people in Sacramento," she said.
Barbara O'Connor, a professor of political science at California State University, Sacramento, said the story could have disastrous consequences for Schwarzenegger.
"I think the evidence is very damning," O'Connor said. "The American people are fairly forgiving but they don't like to be lied to. This speaks to character. To 'fess up only after you're caught, we don't even allow our teenagers to do that."
Schwarzenegger dismissed the Times story as "trash politics" and said much of it was not true.
"But at the same time, I have to tell you that I always say, that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true," he said.
"Those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize because that's not what I'm trying to do."
Schwarzenegger's wife, broadcast journalist Maria Shriver, had no comment, her spokeswoman said.
The Times said that none of the actor's political opponents put reporters in touch with the women and that none had come forward on their own. None have brought legal action against Schwarzenegger, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for Davis said the governor's campaign was not involved in publicizing any of the accusations and would not be bringing them up in political ads.
Davis declined to discuss the issue, saying, "The voters will determine how significant that story is. I'm confident the voters will decide who is best qualified to lead this state."
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who is running second to Schwarzenegger in the polls, said the allegations are "very serious and should be resolved."
"Women can't be approached like that in the workplace," he said.
Schwarzenegger's alleged past indiscretions have been an issue in the campaign since he announced his bid to replace Davis if the governor is recalled. Much of the controversy has surrounded a 1977 interview in Oui magazine in which Schwarzenegger talked about engaging in group sex.
The actor and former world bodybuilding champion has previously said he did not remember that interview and that, in any case, he often exaggerated in those days to promote his sport and his fledgling movie career.
After Premiere magazine raised allegations of boorish behavior toward women in 2001, several colleagues came to Schwarzenegger's defense, including Linda Hamilton, who appeared opposite him in two "Terminator" movies, and Jamie Lee Curtis, who played his wife in "True Lies."
"Arnold is a perfect gentleman and a devoted family man," Curtis said at the time.
At his first campaign stop after the apology, Schwarzenegger was greeted by a handful of protesters holding signs saying, "Women Demand Respect" and "Keep Your Hands Off California's Women." His supporters surrounded them and tried to prevent people from seeing the signs.
"What we saw in the L.A. Times today was not an attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was an attack on every single one of us that wants to take back California," said GOP Rep. David Dreier, a Schwarzenegger supporter.
Schwarzenegger also picked up the endorsement Thursday of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"I have spent much of my career fighting against the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics. When Arnold becomes governor I hope to have a powerful ally in that fight," McCain said in a statement.
Also Thursday, a lawsuit accuses Schwarzenegger of breaking the law for receiving $4 million in loans for his campaign, but a judge refused to block him from using the money. A hearing on a preliminary injunction was set for Dec. 2
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in San Francisco contributed to this story.