Arnold Schwarzennegger: Eddie Lawton/ZUMA Press/Newsom
Gary Susman
October 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Stung by fresh allegations that he’s been a serial groper and harasser of women throughout his three decades in Hollywood, Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Thursday for his past behavior. Though he did not specifically address the new charges, brought forth by several women in a report in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times, he acknowledged having ”behaved badly” and having ”offended people.” Speaking at a campaign rally in San Diego, he promised to be a ”champion for women” if he is elected governor of California next week.

Six women told the Times that the actor had shocked them by groping or fondling them in incidents between 1975 and 2000. Others alleged lewd and harassing comments he’d made toward them. The Times said that it had discovered these women through its own six-week investigation, that it had not been tipped off by Schwarzenegger’s political opponents, and that the women had not come forward on their own. The paper also said that the women had all told their stories to friends and relatives before, but none had ever sought legal action against the actor. Several worked or still work in Hollywood and said they’d kept quiet or anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.

At the San Diego rally, Schwarzenegger said that the charges in the Times were politically motivated but felt he had to address them because ”where there is smoke there is fire.” According to Reuters, he said, ”Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes, yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets…and I have done things I thought were playful that now I recognize that I have offended people.” He added, ”I want to say to them that I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize because that is not what I was trying to do. When I am governor I will prove to women that I will be a champion for women. I hope you will give me the chance to prove this.”

Reports alleging sexist behavior, some from a 2001 story in Premiere magazine, some from Schwarzenegger’s own comments in old interviews, have dogged him throughout the campaign. Before Thursday, he’d dismissed such reports as untruths or as exaggerations of normal behavior for a healthy single guy in 1970s Hollywood. (He married NBC reporter Maria Shriver in 1986.)

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