Smearing Schwarzenegger

The Los Angeles Times, only days before the Oct. 7 California recall election, published a front-page article alleging that Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger groped six women. Only two women gave their names, with four refusing to disclose them. Of the anonymous women, three still work in the Hollywood industry, and refuse to give their names, fearing reprisals. The fourth, while not in the industry, nevertheless feared a mega-reaction if she revealed her name.

The Los Angeles Times admitted that they assigned several reporters who spent seven weeks investigating alleged instances of sexual misconduct by Schwarzenegger. They also admitted that none of the women came forward or that any of the incidents came to light as a result of information provided by any of Schwarzenegger’s “rivals.” (Technically, this excludes Governor Gray Davis as the governor’s name, by law, does not appear on the replacement ballot.)

No one excuses sexual misconduct — groping, unsolicited touching or crude remarks and cad-like behavior. Indeed, Schwarzenegger, while not addressing the specific allegations, apologized for past improper behavior and apologized to women whom he offended. The next day, and the day after, the Times published allegations of yet more women who also accused Schwarzenegger of improper sexual behavior.

First, let’s discuss timing. One day before the allegations were printed, the Los Angeles Times published a poll showing that the majority of Californians supported the recall and 40 percent intended to vote for Schwarzenegger for governor, putting him over 10 points ahead of his nearest rival. Then — bam! — come the allegations.

Also, the Los Angeles Times, on the first page on the same day, ran a headline accusing of Schwarzenegger of taking his election for granted, with a headline called, “Acting as if It’s in the Bag.” Note the “acting” reference, a dig at Schwarzenegger’s presumed lack of qualifications for the office. The article suggested Schwarzenegger engaged in smugness by outlining a 10-step plan for his first hundred days in office. Yet, the same day, in an editorial, the L.A. Times chastised anyone for voting for empty-suit-Schwarzenegger because, according to the paper, he lacked a specific agenda or plan to bail California out of its fiscal jam. So which is it? The “actor” as unprepared to lead, or the “actor” as arrogantly preparing to do so?

The Los Angeles Times, understand, supported Gray Davis when he first ran, supported him again for re-election, and editorialized strongly against the recall.

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Jill Stewart worked with the paper for seven years, quitting because she felt that the paper frequently squashed important stories. Stewart recently wrote about her 1997 story, published in an alternative paper, the now-defunct New Times, “My article . . . detailed how (then Lieutenant Governor/gubernatorial candidate) Davis flew into a rage one day because female staffers had rearranged framed artwork on the walls of his office. He so violently shoved his loyal, 62-year-old secretary out of a doorway that she suffered a breakdown. . . . Another woman . . . had the unhappy chore in the mid-1990s of informing Davis that a fundraising source had dried up. . . . Davis began screaming the f-word at the top of his lungs. The woman stood to demand that he stop speaking to her that way, and, she says, Davis grabbed her by the shoulders and ‘shook me until my teeth rattled. I was so stunned I said, “Good God, Gray! Stop and look at what you are doing. Think what you are doing to me!”‘”

The Los Angeles Times, despite having this story — Stewart says she “crossed paths” with their reporters while working on hers — never published any allegations of Davis’ physical and verbal abuse of his employees. Why? Stewart claims the paper cited its policy of refusing to run negative stories on major “public figures” while using anonymous sources.

Yet, in Schwarzenegger’s case, the newspaper apparently abandoned its own policy by using allegations of four women who refused to disclose their names! Did the Los Angeles Times, for this recall election, send several reporters who spent seven weeks investigating allegations of verbal and physical misconduct against Governor Gray Davis? And why did the Los Angeles Times reveal the allegations only days before the October election? Stewart claims — and the Times denies — that the paper knew of the allegations at least two weeks ago, but sat on the story. Could it be that the Los Angeles Times waited to pull the trigger until a poll showed Schwarzenegger ahead in the race?

Who knows. But the whole thing reeks of a double standard. Bill Clinton remains popular despite women who came forth such as Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, alleging everything from groping to rape. But, as we all know, Republicans face a higher standard than do Democrats. In any case, this failed to stop The Terminator.