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The State | THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Women Say Schwarzenegger Groped, Humiliated Them

The acts allegedly took place over three decades. A campaign aide denies the accusations.

October 02, 2003|Gary Cohn, Carla Hall and Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writers

Six women who came into contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades say he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

In interviews with The Times, three of the women described their surprise and discomfort when Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. A fourth said he reached under her skirt and gripped her buttocks.

A fifth woman said Schwarzenegger groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator. A sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.

According to the women's accounts, one of the incidents occurred in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and one in 2000.

"Did he rape me? No," said one woman, who described a 1980 encounter in which she said Schwarzenegger touched her breast. "Did he humiliate me? You bet he did."

Four of the six women told their stories on condition that they not be named. Three work in Hollywood and said they were worried that, if they were identified, their careers would be in jeopardy for speaking out against Schwarzenegger, the onetime bodybuilding champion and box-office star who is now the front-runner in the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.

The other unnamed woman said she feared public ridicule and possible damage to her husband's business.

In the four cases in which the women would not let their names be published, friends or relatives said that the women had told them about the incidents long before Schwarzenegger's run for governor.

None of the six women who gave their accounts to The Times filed any legal action against him.

Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesman, Sean Walsh, said the candidate has not engaged in improper conduct toward women. He said such allegations are part of an escalating political attack on Schwarzenegger as the recall election approaches.

"We believe Democrats and others are using this to try to hurt Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign," Walsh said. "We believe that this is coming so close before the election, something that discourages good, hard-working, decent people from running for office."

Walsh said Schwarzenegger himself would have no comment.

The Times did not learn of any of the six women from Schwarzenegger's rivals in the recall race. And none of the women approached the newspaper on her own. Reporters contacted them in the course of a seven-week examination of Schwarzenegger's behavior toward women on and off the movie set.

Schwarzenegger's attitudes about women have been an issue on the campaign trail, where critics have accused him of being misogynistic, based on past statements he has made to various publications. In response, Schwarzenegger has said he respects women and that many of his comments were made in jest or simply meant to be provocative.

Schwarzenegger's conduct toward women also has been widely discussed in Hollywood over the years, notably after a March 2001 article in Premiere magazine called "Arnold the Barbarian." After the article appeared, a number of Schwarzenegger's colleagues wrote to the magazine saying that the story was inaccurate and that Schwarzenegger treated women with respect and kindness.

The earliest incident of the six described to The Times was said to have occurred in 1975 at Gold's Gym near Venice Beach. E. Laine Stockton, then newly married to professional bodybuilder Robby Robinson, said she had gone to the gym to watch her husband work out.

Stockton was 19 at the time. She said she was wearing slacks, tennis shoes and a loose-fitting T-shirt. She said she was not wearing a bra.

As she sat on an exercise bench, Stockton said, Schwarzenegger walked up behind her, reached under her T-shirt and touched her bare left breast.

"The gym is full of bodybuilders and Arnold comes and he gropes my breast -- actually touches my breast with his left hand," she said.

She said Schwarzenegger then walked away without saying a word.

Stockton said she does not rule out that Schwarzenegger "may have meant it in playfulness." But she did not take it that way.

"I was just shocked, shocked to the point where I almost didn't know how to react, because it was so out of the blue and so unexpected," she said. "It just completely caught me off guard, and when I finally came to my senses, I immediately went over to Robby and I said, 'Look, Arnold just groped my breast.' "

Robinson, a former Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe, said he "tried to comfort her."

Robinson has since had a falling out with Schwarzenegger. An African American known as the "Black Prince" during his years on the professional bodybuilding circuit, Robinson has accused Schwarzenegger of racism -- a charge that Schwarzenegger's campaign denies.

Robinson said he was upset by what Schwarzenegger had done to his wife, but did not confront him. "What he did was uncalled for, but I couldn't say nothing," Robinson said, explaining that he feared he'd be ostracized by the bodybuilding world.

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