Schwarzenegger Talks Politics With Howard Stern, Larry King

Times Staff Writer

Employing his Hollywood celebrity, Arnold Schwarzenegger took his campaign to the talk shows of two of his famous friends Wednesday as he engaged Howard Stern and Larry King in discussions of his personality, entertainment and politics.

His appearances on Stern’s morning radio show and King’s evening TV show followed a session Monday on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime TV program. In completing that three-bagger on the American talk circuit, Schwarzenegger -- a personal friend of all three hosts who has been a frequent guest on all three shows -- returned to the familiar territory of celebrity talk, where he has long promoted his movies.

His hourlong appearance on “Larry King” represents easily his longest interview of the campaign.

The interviews came as the Schwarzenegger campaign appears to be pulling back slightly from a recent effort to be more accessible to the political press and is concentrating, instead, on venues where he is assured of a friendly reception.


Stern introduced Schwarzenegger Wednesday as “governor” and noted repeatedly that his guest “has been a friend of the show.” His questions included lighthearted queries about whether Gov. Gray Davis might star in a “Terminator 4" and why the Los Angeles City Council had banned lap dancing.

Stern also pressed Schwarzenegger to give him an official title if the actor is elected governor.

“We will get some title going immediately here,” Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger encountered far more detailed questioning on the King show, where Schwarzenegger largely repeated familiar themes from his stump speeches. He criticized Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante and Davis for using schools as photo opportunities -- as opposed to what he said was his own long-standing philanthropy in schools.

To more personal questions, he said he loved Sacramento, calling it “a beautiful, quaint little town.” He said his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sends religious books for him to read. And in a reference to his wife’s attempt to muzzle him on “Oprah” when he made an off-color remark about his bodybuilding days, Schwarzenegger said: “I wish that Maria would have been there in the 1970s to put her ... hand over my mouth when I said all those things.”

In the first weeks of his campaign, Schwarzenegger had been reticent to answer specific questions. Then, after Labor Day, he switched tactics and began subjecting himself to extensive questioning from reporters every day. He also released detailed policy statements on issues including workers’ compensation, education and the state’s construction code.

By contrast, in the last four days Schwarzenegger has held a single eight-minute question-and-answer session with the reporters following his campaign, preferring to speak on talk shows and in town hall meetings with audiences carefully selected by his campaign.

Schwarzenegger’s strategists say the candidate’s appearances reflect nothing more than a nontraditional candidate’s effort to reach nontraditional audiences.


Such venues also reflect the candidate’s own stated distaste for the editing of his message that takes place in conventional media interviews. One campaign strategist cautioned Wednesday that the candidate would add to his policy specifics today, delivering a speech in Sacramento on government reform.

“We have committed in this campaign to not simply do establishment media programs,” said Sean Walsh, a campaign spokesman and strategist.

But Schwarzenegger’s cluster of high-profile talk show appearances drew criticism Wednesday from some of the candidate’s fellow Republicans, who noted the liberal politics of Winfrey and the raciness of Stern.

On Monday, the Stern show hosted a Schwarzenegger impersonator who let a porn star sit on his lap and judged a contest that involved body hair.


K.B. Forbes, a GOP strategist who worked for businessman Bill Simon Jr. before he quit the race, said the appearances demonstrated that “Schwarzenegger has not transitioned from celebrity to a serious gubernatorial candidate.”

Steve Frank, a conservative activist based in Simi Valley, said such appearances are inappropriate. He criticized a reference by Schwarzenegger on the Winfrey show to an old comment comparing lifting weights to the pleasure of orgasm.

“He goes on shows that have whores, prostitutes, moral degenerates and says, ‘I’m a wonderful guy, I should be governor,’ ” Frank said. “He goes on Larry King, who fawns over every misbegotten movie star who comes down the pike. He goes on Oprah Winfrey and talks about his sex life. What kind of sickness is this?”

Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the Republican central committee in Contra Costa County, was kinder, saying he was glad to see Schwarzenegger “reach out to a different group of voters.” But he added: “If he’s got the time to do that sort of thing, surely he’s got the time to spend in other serious debates.”


Schwarzenegger, who has said he will debate only once, on Sept. 24, passed up a candidate forum on Wednesday.

Campaign officials note that Schwarzenegger has been taking questions from voters at “Ask Arnold” town halls, most recently Tuesday night in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Those town halls use audiences handpicked by groups friendly to the campaign. The questioners frequently wear “Join Arnold” buttons and provide cheering backgrounds for television pictures.

Between his talk show appearances, he stopped by Margarita Jones, a restaurant near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, to congratulate about three dozen immigrants who had just become U.S. citizens. He also talked about wrapping himself in an American flag after he earned citizenship 20 years ago this week during a ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium, just three blocks from the restaurant.