September 8, 2006

Schwarzenegger Apologizes Over Remarks

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized today for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are naturally passionate because of their combination of “black blood” and “Latino blood.”

The ad-lib comments were captured on tapes recorded during a March speechwriting session between the governor, a Republican who is seeking re-election, and his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, when the two spoke of their shared affection for State Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s passionate legislative style.

“I mean Cuban, Puerto-Rican, they are all very hot,” the governor says on the recording. “They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it.”

The Los Angeles Times, which obtained a tape of the remarks, reported about them today, and thus ensued a by-the-book narrative of an embarrassing gaff revealed during a heated gubernatorial campaign.

Early today, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s Democratic opponent in November, Phil Angelides, released a statement chastising the governor. “Once again, Governor Schwarzenegger has used language that is deeply offensive to all Californians and embarrassed our state,” he wrote. “His comments reflect a disturbing pattern of behavior. The governor has a responsibility to conduct himself with dignity.”

But Ms. Garcia, a Republican and an ally of Mr. Schwarzenegger, responded with her own remark.

“The only embarrassment in California today is Phil Angelides’ sad and predictably partisan statement,” she said in a statement distributed by the Schwarzenegger campaign. Soon, black and Hispanic lawmakers were issuing news releases, some saying they didn’t care for the statement, others said there was nothing wrong with it.

Perhaps anticipating a weekend of busy blogging on the matter, Mr. Schwarzenegger called a news conference in Los Angeles with Ms. Garcia to make the ultimately political apology, in which the candidate laments anyone taking his remarks the wrong way.

“To anyone out there that feels offended by those comments I just want to say I apologize,” said the governor, who added that reading the remarks in the paper made him “cringe” and that he would be displeased to hear his children make them in his house.

“I called several Latino leaders,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, “it was very clear that all of them understood that this was an off-the-record conversation and they all said to me we are not preoccupied with these kind of things.”

Ms. Garcia, whom the governor referred to as “my buddy,” said again that she was not offended, and praised the governor for recognizing “that I am passionate about the issues.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger has kept his rather extemporaneous speaking style under wraps during this campaign, after calling California legislators “girlie men” and suggesting he would like to kick nurses in the rear failed to amuse the subjects of his remarks. During California’s 2003 recall election, he was accused of groping women on movie sets, and apologized for having “behaved badly sometimes.”