This story was originally published Sept. 9, 2006
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying Puerto Rican and Cuban women have a "very hot" temperament due to what he mused was a mix of "black blood" and "Latino blood."
The Republican governor's leap into amateur ethnology came during a taped private conversation with aides in the spring that was obtained by the Los Angeles Times and released Thursday night. Schwarzenegger said Friday he cringed when he read his own remarks and would be upset if his children dissected ethnicity in the same way.
The governor's apology then gave way to a day of back-and-forth spin against the backdrop of his re-election campaign against Democrat Phil Angelides.
U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis., D-El Monte, charged that Schwarzenegger's comments were racist, while United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta said they were "sexual" in nature. Both are backing Angelides.
Yet Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the Cathedral City Republican whose Puerto Rican roots prompted the governor's private comments, said she supports Schwarzenegger and that he had no need to apologize because she was not offended.
The governor did some damage control anyway.
"Anyone out there that feels offended by those comments, I just want to say I'm sorry, I apologize, because that was not the intention, " Schwarzenegger said Friday during a Santa Monica press conference recording provided by his campaign.
At the National Latino Congress conference in Los Angeles, Huerta accused the governor of making "sexual" remarks about Latinas.
"It just speaks to what the man thinks, " Huerta said of Schwarzenegger. "This is what is important. Because we have a governor up there who should be respecting all women, and especially Latina women, because ... we are the ones who are the lowest paid, the ones who suffer a lot of discrimination, and his apology I don't think is heartfelt."
At a Service Employees International Union convention in San Jose, Angelides criticized the governor after giving a speech.
"Sadly, once again, Governor Schwarzenegger has made comments that are deeply offensive and that have embarrassed California, " Angelides said. "This is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior. And a governor has an obligation to conduct himself with dignity."
Garcia tried to use those statements against Angelides, and became the governor's chief defender Friday. The governor spent Thursday night at a campaign fundraiser for Garcia.
Unlike Solis or Huerta -- or Schwarzenegger, for that matter -- Garcia said she "started laughing" when someone read excerpts of the Times article to her Thursday night because she couldn't believe anyone would take offense to them.
"It saddens me that (Angelides) would take something totally out of context and get some political mileage for himself during an election season. So I am waiting for my phone to ring and Phil Angelides to apologize to me, " she said.
Meanwhile, leading Latino Democratic state lawmakers were unwilling Friday to criticize Schwarzenegger for his comments.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, who said last week that his relationship with Schwarzenegger is "at an all-time high, " appeared to come to the governor's defense.
"These are hardly Nixon's Watergate tapes, " Nunez spokesman Richard Stapler said in a statement. "The governor has always been respectful towards Latinos."
And state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, chairwoman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, said in a statement, "I have worked with the governor on many important issues, and he has never been disrespectful to the Latino community."
The six-minute tape obtained by the Times appears to have been recorded by chief speechwriter Gary Delsohn, a former Bee reporter. Also heard on the tape are Walter von Huene, an actor and longtime Schwarzenegger friend, as well as Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy. The governor said Friday he allows Delsohn to tape his thoughts to give the speechwriter a sense of his "texture, " because "I always like to sound like Arnold, " according to online footage of the press conference provided by KTLA.
Delsohn declined to comment about the developments.
While attention Friday focused on the governor's inquiry into ethnicity, the recording includes Schwarzenegger's musings on other Republican state lawmakers at a time when the GOP governor was trying to build bipartisan support for public works bonds.
The governor refers derisively to former Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as "Bakersfield boy." He also sounds amused when Kennedy says current Assembly Republican leader George Plescia of La Jolla "looks like the deer that keeps getting caught in my yard when I leave the gate open."
In a statement released Friday, Plescia said he accepted the governor's apology and that Schwarzenegger "reiterated his respect for our entire caucus."