Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Arnie's lead in polls waning over harrassment claims

TOUCHY ISSUE More allegations of misconduct may be draining Schwarzenegger's support, but he really doesn't want to talk about them until after the election

AP , SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

Marching on the Capitol he hopes to claim in today's recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he sensed "an unbelievable momentum," despite new allegations of sexual harassment and signs of a tightening race.

The embattled incumbent, Governor Gray Davis, signed a law Sunday making California the lar-gest US state to require employer-paid health care.

A poll released over the weekend found Schwarzenegger's lead among replacement candidates waning with news of harassment claims, but the Republican remained ahead of the pack and voters still favored removing Davis from office in today's election.

Schwarzenegger did not address the allegations during his march and rally at the Capitol, his only scheduled public appearance Sunday, but said Davis "has terminated opportunities and now it's time to terminate him."

"Please bring me the broom," the Republican told a rally crowd of nearly 5,000. "We are here to clean house."

Schwarzenegger's opponents and supporters alike held signs referring to the harassment allegations, from "No groper for governor" and "Say no to Predators" to "Gray groped government" and "Gray groped our assets."

Four more women surfaced to accuse Schwarzenegger of groping, spanking or touching them inappropriately, bringing the total to 15 since a Los Angeles Times story Thursday detailed six claims of harassment between 1975 and 2000.

The Times reported Sunday on the latest group, which included an unidentified 51-year-old woman who said Schwarzenegger pinned her to him and spanked her repeatedly three years ago at a West Los Angeles post-production studio.

Three other women named by the Times said Schwarzenegger fondled them in separate incidents outside a Venice gym in the mid-1980s, at a bar in the late 1970s and on the set of the movie Predator in 1986.

In a Dateline NBC interview aired Sunday evening, Schwarzenegger said of the allegations, "a lot of it is made-up stories. I've never grab-bed anyone and pulled up the shirt and grabbed the breast and stuff like that."

But when asked if he denied all the stories about grabbing, he said, "No, not all. But I'm just saying this is not me. What I am is someone that sometimes makes outrageous jokes, someone that is out and says sometimes crazy things that may be offensive because there is a certain atmosphere."

Schwarzenegger said he would not say anything more about the harassment claims until after the election. "I can get into all of the specifics and find out what is really going on," he said. "But right now I'm just really occupied with the campaign."

"This is campaign trickery and it is dirty campaigning," he said in an interviewed aired on ABC's This Week Sunday. "Like, for instance, I despise anything and everything that Hitler stands for."

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