A bizarre finale caps an improbable political life

Even in California’s topsy-turvy worlds of Hollywood and politics, the fact that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sired a child out of wedlock while married to his wife left most people thunderstruck and fired speculation from Ventura to Vladivostock.

But in the aftermath of that disclosure, the real impact on the career and life of the body builder-turned-film star may be negligible. Whatever the impact of all this on him as a person, his public posture may roll on unchanged.

A millionaire many times over – one estimate put his wealth at $200 million – he surely will face a financial hit in any separation from his wife of 25 years, Maria Shriver.

He had few prospects of a major political career even before the disclosure this week by the Los Angeles Times, so that star had already dimmed.

But in Hollywood, where he is already expected to perform in yet another Terminator film, Schwarzenegger, 63, may find his career on the rise.

Ironically, when he was elected governor in 2003, he was seen as an aging star making a last hurrah and using politics as a safe haven.

Out of office for five months, now the reverse is true: His political career has crashed, but his Hollywood career may be on the rise. Barring boycotts of theaters that exhibit his film, it’s hard to see him losing money, especially in international distribution.

Schwarzenegger acknowledged the episode to his wife Shriver after he left the governorship in January, 14 years after the boy was born. Shriver immediately moved out of their Brentwood home in January with the couple’s four children – Katherine, 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13.

Schwarzenegger confirmed his paternity to the Times, in which he submitted the statement in response to questions posed by the newspaper. There were separate reports that Schwarzenegger planned to appear May 25 on the Oprah Winfrey show for a tell-all.

The staff member, who has since been indentified as Mildred Baena, worked for the family for two decades and has since retired. She left the family’s employ in January and received a severance payment. She told the Times that her parting from the family was amiable, although there was widespread speculation that she was paid to stay silent.
Schwarzenegger told the Times there were “no excuses” for his conduct.

 “After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,” Schwarzenegger said in the statement issued to the Times. “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused,” he said. “I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry. “

 Shriver, 55, described the personal turmoil as 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.”

The couple earlier issued a joint statement that they were separating, but gave few details.

The combination of celebrity Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria, a member of the Kennedy family and a TV news reporter, was politically potent in the Capitol, which Schwarzenegger took by storm in 2003 following the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis.

He also is an international presence and reports that he fathered a child out of wedlock drew attention in Europe and Asia, where he remains highly popular.
The newspaper, which did not identify Baena by name, said “she voluntarily left her position with the couple earlier this year after reaching a longstanding goal of working for them for two decades.”

“I wanted to achieve my 20 years, then I asked to retire,” she said, adding she received the severance and “left on good terms with them.”

Schwarzenegger has been dogged for years by allegations of boorish behavior and womanizing, but they got little traction in Hollywood. During the 2003 gubernatorial recall campaign, more allegations arose, and among his staunchest defenders was Shriver, who described him as an “A-plus human being.”

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: