Arnold apologizes for past bad-boy behavior

Candidate admits he's acted 'badly' toward women

Published: Friday, Oct. 3 2003 12:00 a.m. MDT

Gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger greets supporters in Costa Mesa, Calif. The actor is beginning a statewide bus tour in his bid to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

Chris Carlson, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

SAN DIEGO — Faced with new allegations of sexual misconduct, Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged on Thursday that "wherever there is smoke there is fire" and apologized for having "behaved badly sometimes" toward women.

Schwarzenegger, who has been surging in the polls in California's recall election, issued the apology here at the beginning of a statewide bus tour. The six-bus tour, with the international media in tow, is part of the actor's final push to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

It was the first time during the extraordinary recall campaign that the actor and former bodybuilder expressed remorse for sexual indiscretions, having previously downplayed allegations of groping and mistreatment of women as exaggerations, mistruths or provocations.

"Yes it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets," Schwarzenegger said, "and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful but now I recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize because this is not what I'm trying to do."

The announcement came in response to a front-page Los Angeles Times article Thursday about six women who said that they were the victims of unwanted sexual advances by Schwarzenegger when they came into contact with him on movie sets, studio offices and a gymnasium.

Schwarzenegger's attitude toward women has been an issue since the start of his campaign. But the new allegations — and Schwarzenegger's reply — set off a maelstrom of protest from Schwarzenegger's critics, including women's groups, Democrats, and Arianna Huffington, who dropped out of the race this week but clashed repeatedly with Schwarzenegger during a debate last week.

"I consider his campaign a very expensively produced masquerade, and the question is will the mask be removed before the election or after," Huffington said. "I believe what this story is going to do, is really bring to question this big issue of trust and credibility. If his word and image are consistently proven to be false, he doesn't have a leg to stand on."

According to the Los Angeles Times, three of the women said Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. Another said he groped her and tried to strip off her bikini in a hotel elevator. The sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her to his lap and asked if she was experienced in a particular sexual act.

The allegations covered a 25-year period, ending in 2000.

Though some of the claims had been published elsewhere, including in an article in Premier magazine in 2001, the Los Angeles Times account was exhaustive and included fresh details of the complaints. Two of the women were identified by name. In the Premier story, a lawyer for Schwarzenegger was quoted accusing one of the women of creating an "outrageous fabrication."

In making his apology Thursday, Schwarzenegger denounced the Los Angeles Times article as "trash politics" and did not admit to any of the specific claims made by the six women. "A lot of those that you see in the stories is not true, but at the same time I have to tell you that I always say that wherever there is smoke there is fire," he said. "That is true."

Until now, allegations of sexual misconduct involving Schwarzenegger have held little sway with voters. But the issue has shadowed the campaign since day one. In announcing his candidacy on Aug. 6 on the NBC Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Schwarzenegger was the first to raise the subject.

"I know they're going to throw everything at me, and they're going to, you know, say that I have no experience and that I'm a womanizer and that I'm a terrible, terrible guy," Schwarzenegger said. "And all this kind of things is going to come my way."

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