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Arnie brushes aside charges

Sacramento/San Jose (California), Oct. 6 (Reuters): Battling perceived villains in the media and Democratic party with characteristic testosterone, Arnold Schwarzenegger brushed aside sexual misconduct charges as he began the last stretch of his quest for California’s governor’s mansion.

Schwarzenegger concluded a four-day bus tour yesterday outside the capital, Sacramento, after a sometimes rowdy barn-storming trek across the state.

Thousands of supporters and a few hecklers gathered on the lawn of the Capitol building, where the actor gave his stock campaign speech, holding up a broom at one point and promising to “sweep out Gray Davis.”

Schwarzenegger closed his rally by exiting from the stage into the Capitol as though he already had the run of the place.

Protesters carried signs like “Arnold release the Hitler tapes,” a reference to excerpts from the movie Pumping Iron in which he apparently expressed admiration for Hitler, and “Arnold, are your daughters’ pieces of meat'” One supporter made light of the groping charges with the placard:“Gray groped our ASSets.”

Davis charged into the final stage of the wild recall battle demanding that Schwarzenegger, his chief rival for the state’s top job in tomorrow’s recall election, explain in detail what was behind recent sexual harassment allegations.

At least 15 women have alleged Schwarzenegger groped or harassed them, as recently as 2000, with four fresh allegations emerging on Saturday.

What began as a Republican-led protest vote over Davis’ handling of the state’s ailing economy has become a referendum on the bodybuilder-turned Hollywood star, his treatment of women and his past, qualified praise for Adolf Hitler.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, expressed outrage at the late barrage of sexual misconduct charges. “No one ever came to me in my life and said to me when I did anything: ‘I don’t want you to do that, and you went over the line.’ Now all of a sudden isn’t it odd ... (that) all of these women want to have an apology'” he said.

Collette Brooks, who has said Schwarzenegger grabbed her from behind when she was an intern at CNN in 1982, said she had not come forward then out of fear of crossing a powerful star.

“My reaction was a deer in headlights... complete humiliation,” she said, adding that she was angered by Schwarzenegger’s general apology.

“He's speaking out of both sides of his mouth,” she said.

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