‘Puke politics’ or public accountability?

Voters were not swayed by recent accusations that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped and harassed 15 women over a period of 30 years. Since the accusations appeared, Schwarzenegger did some mighty backpeddling to dam the potential political fallout. If history is any indicator, sexual misconduct allegations can and will reappear after he takes office.

The Los Angeles Times broke the story regarding sexual misconduct Oct. 2, only five days before the election. The original six women who came forward accuse Schwarzenegger of a range of impropriety, including verbal sexual harassment, groping and attempted assault.

On the day the story appeared, Schwarzenegger addressed a crowd of supporters in San Diego, Calif., and said, “I always say that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true. So I want to say to you, yes, 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.”

As more women came forward, Schwarzenegger became less apologetic and more indignant, characterizing the stories as “trash politics” and part of a “puke campaign.” On Sunday, he told ABC’s Peter Jennings, “Some of the things sound like me.” Later that night he told NBC’s Tom Brokaw, “Well, first of all, a lot of these are made-up stories. I have never grabbed anyone, and pulled up their shirt and grabbed their breasts and stuff like that. This is not me.”

Clearly, Schwarzenegger has not developed a game plan for how he will handle these allegations in coming months. As the story unfolds, Schwarzenegger might come to regret paying $8 million of his own money to win this position.