October 02 2003 at 02:30PM
Washington - Six women who met Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets and other places over the last three decades say he groped them, the Los Angeles Times said on Thursday.
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, while a sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.
Schwarzenegger is the leading Republican candidate in California's recall election for governor.
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."
According to the newspaper, none of the women who discussed their encounters with the former body builder said they filed any legal action against him.
Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesperson, Sean Walsh, said the candidate has not engaged in improper conduct toward women, and that 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."
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 six-week examination of Schwarzenegger's behaviour toward women on and off the movie set.
The Times said Schwarzenegger's attitudes about women have been an issue during the campaign, with critics accusing him of being misogynistic, based on past statements he has made to various publications.
Schwarzenegger has said he respects women and that many of his comments were
made in jest or simply meant to be provocative.