LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — He’s one of the most famous people on the planet, a two-term governor of California, a movie star and a former world champion bodybuilder with a profile so huge that just one name, Arnold, instantly identifies him to almost everyone.
Yet somehow, for more than a decade, Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to keep an incredible secret from the public and his wife, prominent former TV journalist and Kennedy heiress Maria Shriver: that he fathered a child with a woman on his household staff more than a decade ago.
The revelation came Tuesday, just a week after Schwarzenegger and Shriver announced they had separated.
“I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a statement. “There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”
Hours later, Shriver also released a statement: “This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal. I will have no further comment.”
Two of their four children posted on Twitter, expressing their love for their family.
“Some days you feel like s—, some days you want to quit and just be normal for a bit,” tweeted 17-year-old Patrick Schwarzenegger, quoting the band Fort Minor’s heartbreak song “Where’d You Go.” Adding his own words, he said, “Yet I love my family till death do us apart.”
His 21-year-old sister, Katherine Schwarzenegger, followed later in the day. “This is definitely not easy but I appreciate your love and support as i begin to heal and move forward in life,” she said. “I will always love my family!”
Schwarzenegger and Shriver jointly announced May 9 that they were splitting up after 25 years of marriage. She moved out of the family’s Brentwood mansion after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the child is his, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. For several weeks, she has been seen in public without her wedding ring.
Schwarzenegger said the child was born “over a decade ago” — before he began his seven-year stint as governor.
The Times did not publish the former staffer’s name or that of her child but said she worked for the family for 20 years and retired in January.
Schwarzenegger issued his statement to the Times late Monday, after the newspaper interviewed the former staffer. The Times reported that she originally said another man — her husband at the time — was the child’s father. When the newspaper informed her of the governor’s statement, she declined to comment further.
Schwarzenegger later released his statement to The Associated Press and other news organizations.
What’s most stunning about the revelation is how long he managed to keep his family — and the public — in the dark, prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney Steve Mindel said, adding that Schwarzenegger may have been able to conceal signs, such as child support, because of his wealth.
“Clearly, Arnold has done a spectacular job of keeping it secret,” he said.
Another prominent attorney, Gloria Allred, said it was likely that whatever settlement Schwarzenegger reached with the woman required that she never discuss the relationship publicly.
Schwarzenegger, 63, has been dogged for years by allegations of womanizing. They almost derailed his move to politics in 2003 when he was elected to replace recalled Gov. Gray Davis.
Days before the election, the Times reported accusations from numerous women that the handsome, muscular star of the “Terminator” films and seven-time Mr. Olympia had groped them on movie sets. That was hardly his only brush with controversy.
He had jokingly smoked marijuana on camera in the bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron,” and over the years before he married Shriver, he had acknowledged a profligate sex life.
In a 1977 interview with the adult magazine Oui, he boasted of taking part in an orgy and of numerous other sexual exploits, some of them backstage at bodybuilding competitions.
During his gubernatorial campaign, he chalked those incidents up to youthful indiscretions, and during his years as governor presented himself as a dedicated family man.
Since leaving office, Schwarzenegger has hopscotched around the world, fashioning himself as a spokesman for green energy and announcing plans to resume his movie career.
Shriver, however, was nowhere in sight. While the “Terminator” star appeared confident, Shriver, known for her confidence, seemed unsettled.
Shriver, 55, maintained her own identity when her husband entered politics, though she gave up her job at NBC. Their union was often tested in Sacramento, where the former action star contended with seven years of legislative gridlock, a budget crisis and lingering questions about his fidelity.
The estranged couple’s initial separation statement referred to “a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us” but gave no hint of what caused the split. Shriver had also mentioned “transitions” in a Facebook posting earlier this year but gave no details.
At the time, it seemed most likely to be a reference to the end of her role as California’s first lady. Shriver never moved to Sacramento during Schwarzenegger’s tenure, but she used her position to run a popular yearly women’s conference that drew high-profile attendees.
Shriver, daughter of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, met the former Mr. Universe in 1977 at the Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament in Forest Hills, N.Y.
They married on April 26, 1986, in a white clapboard church in Hyannis, Mass., with many members of the Kennedy family and celebrities present and a crowd of fans cheering outside. At the time, she was an anchor on the “CBS Morning News” and he was filming a movie. In addition to Patrick and Katherine, they have two other children, Christina, 19, and Christopher, 13.
It is too early to say what will become of post-governor Arnold.
He’s to star as a horse trainer in a planned drama called “Cry Macho” and has talked about resurrecting his signature “Terminator” character.
Schwarzenegger and comic-book legend Stan Lee recently announced he would voice the lead character in an animated TV series called “The Governator,” in which he would play himself.
Lee and Your Family Entertainment, the company that planned to distribute the series, declined to comment on Tuesday’s developments.
Prominent entertainment publicist Michael Levine, who has handled crisis public relations for Michael Jackson and others, believes Schwarzenegger has irreparably damaged his Hollywood comeback, noting his behavior could alienate his female audience.
But Mindel said the public is incredibly forgiving of charismatic celebrities like Schwarzenegger.
“The public will forgive you once or twice,” he said. “The public will forgive him if he minds his Ps and Qs for a while.”
“Well this is you know, when we sit on the news business and you see this story start to unfold the first thing you wonder is what’s going to be next? I mean, it just gets a little bit more bizarre at every turn,” KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier summed up his reaction to the bombshell.
Did the media miss something?
“Well, you know the media, it’s an interesting setup here because the celebrity media that comes out of L.A., which is often covered by the tabloids, it’s a mutually beneficial network down there,” pointed out Matier. “And that has to do a lot with the stars’ foibles and stuff.”
“You’d be surprised how much of these scandals and exposes about various Hollywood people are actually planted by their own publicists in order to get some kind of spin out of ’em,” he continued. “But no, we didn’t this one coming. Political people were out, we checked out the printed allegations about his groping, Maria as a star in Hollywood, Maria staunchly defended him and it went on from there. But we didn’t have anything bubbling up about extramarital affairs while he was governor or anything that would sort of, spotted here, spotted there, that would have lent something to this.”
At this point, it may be considered nothing more than an unfortunate story about a former politician.
“And I think pretty much former,” emphasized Matier, “although these days you know, you never know in America what’s going to turn. You know, Elliot Spitzer goes from being a vilified guy that was nailed out as you know, bookin’ hookers while he was busting Wall Street for doing the same things and now he’s got a talk show on CNN. You never know what’s going to be around but yes, this is going to be a very sort of end to whatever administration he had.”
“And I also want to say that when Arnold took over, remember this was in the recall, and there were a lot of people that were against him,” Matier pointed out. “So if somebody had been talking, it would have come out so the amazing thing here is that this thing stayed under wraps until Arnold decided to tell Maria and that’s when things started to roll.”
KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:
”We had been chasing rumors of out of wedlock children (by Schwarzenegger) all over the place, from here to Texas, to Brazil. Everything popped up once he decided to run for governor,” said Matier. “Did the media go for the pre-packaged groping story, of course. It was the same story with Gennifer Flowers and Bill Clinton.”
Matier said that the media looked for illegitimate children by scanning court documents and birth certificates, but because this affair was so close to home it went undiscovered.
”Because this wasn’t with a staffer, or anyone that anybody knew, because it was right inside the home, if he was quiet about it and she was quiet about it, and whomever was cutting the monthly checks was quiet about it, it stayed under the radar.
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