Schwarzenegger apologizes to women for behavior
GOP campaign dismisses groping allegations
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Facing allegations that he groped women in incidents dating back over three decades, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Thursday for behaving "badly," even as he denounced the report as "trash politics."
Schwarzenegger, the leading candidate in California's gubernatorial recall race, addressed the allegations in the wake of a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times that detailed accusations from six women who charge that the actor-turned-politician inappropriately touched them.
In comments to supporters as he kicked off a four-day bus tour, Schwarzenegger said much of the article was "not true." He did not specifically say what was wrong, and he then went on to apologize.
"Whereever there is smoke, there is fire -- that is true," Schwarzenegger said. "What I want to say to you is, 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 then I thought were playful, but now I recognize that I have offended people."
He added, "I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize."
The allegations came less than a week before the October 7 recall and as polls indicate growing support for Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger launched his bus tour in San Diego and was traveling north through the state over the next four days as the recall campaign entered the final stretch.
The Davis campaign denied having any role in planting the newspaper story or directing women to reporters. The article itself said none of the women approached the newspaper, nor had any political rivals identified them.
Peter Ragone, a Davis campaign spokesman, said it was up to voters to determine whether the accusations were relevant to the recall election.
"The bottom line is that voters need to decide what significance they attach to these stories," Ragone said. Asked if the Davis campaign would use the accusations in its campaign or run ads about Schwarzenegger's character, Ragone responded, "No, what we're talking about here is qualification and who is qualified to lead the state of California."
For his part, Davis was due to appear with Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a continuation of his effort to portray the recall as part of a broader GOP campaign to challenge elections they lost.
Davis was re-elected to a second term in November, but his popularity has plummeted as the state deals with a budget crunch and lackluster economy.
"If we come together and unite against this recall, we will beat back this power grab and send a message from California to Crawford, Texas, to the White House: We are not going to stand for a Republican power grab," Davis said Wednesday at a rally with Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark.
Come Tuesday, California voters will decide whether to boot Davis out of office, and, on the second part of the ballot, they will pick from 135 names for a replacement should the recall succeed.
The question of whether to recall Davis will be decided by a majority of votes, but his successor -- if there is one -- only needs to pick up a plurality of votes.
In a show of increasing confidence, Schwarzenegger, the leading candidate in the polls, has begun talking about his plans for the state.
He said Wednesday that, if elected, his first move as California governor would be to repeal the state's car tax. He laid out a plan for his first 100 days as governor that besides the car tax repeal includes steps to freeze spending and audit the state budget.
The unpopular car tax, which took effect Wednesday, tripled registration fees for many California drivers.
The increase was part of Davis' plan to try to close the state's budget deficit, but the public anger it provoked helped boost the recall against him.
A Los Angeles Times poll, published Wednesday, showed 56 percent of likely voters support recalling Davis. Schwarzenegger led the pack of potential replacements with the support of 40 percent of likely voters.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante trailed Schwarzenegger with 32 percent in the poll. GOP state Sen. Tom McClintock had 15 percent.
The previous Times poll, in mid-September, found 50 percent of voters would recall Davis and 47 percent would keep him in office -- a statistical dead heat.
That poll showed Schwarzenegger trailing Bustamante by 30 percent to 25 percent, with McClintock at 18.
Wednesday's poll mirrors the trends in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released over the weekend that showed only 35 percent of probable voters would vote to keep Davis in office.
That poll showed Schwarzenegger with 40 percent support among replacement candidates, with Bustamante at 25 percent and McClintock at 18.