Reporter recalls investigating Arnold's groping for the LAT

Tracy Weber, a former reporter for the L.A. Times now at ProPublica, writes today that in 2003 she was reluctantly pulled off her investigation into the "Killer King" hospital — she won a Pulitzer for that — and thrown into the paper's Arnold Schwarzenegger groping probe. It felt at the time like "a tawdry detour," she says, but the paper needed someone skilled at getting reticent women to talk about what the possible next governor had done to them. "As I interviewed these women," Weber writes, "I came to believe in the importance of the story."

They were strong, professional, independent people, women like me: competent and assertive.

Their experiences with Schwarzenegger were double humiliations. First they suffered through the acts themselves: demeaning–often public–groping, unwanted, invasive kisses, crude, belittling comments.

Far worse, they felt forced by circumstance to let Schwarzenegger behave badly—like an over-indulged toddler, as one woman put it. A complaint against the bigger-than-life moneymaker could tank their careers. Not a single woman felt anyone would have taken their side or chastised the star.

Weber says one of the women she met was the flight attendant named by some tabloids as the mother of a child with Schwarzenegger. The woman denied it vehemently, and Weber says it's not the woman now confirmed to be the mother. Weber's larger point is that she cajoled the women to tell their stories believing it would matter, but in the end she feels it probably didn't.

Linnea Harwell...described how Schwarzenegger regularly stripped naked in front of her on the 1988 Santa Fe, N.M. set of the movie “Twins.” Once, Harwell recalled, he pulled her down on a bed while he was wearing only underwear and let her go only when someone called her on her walkie talkie. “He was laughing like it was all a big joke,” she said then. “Well it wasn’t. It was scary.”

Unless his wife, Maria Shriver, was on the set, Harwell said, Schwarzenegger made rude comments without caring who heard. She recalled wondering “Why does he think he could get away with it? But he could.”

Weber's bottom line: "Eight years ago, I persuaded several women to share their humiliating experiences at the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger – and nothing changed."

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