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L.A. Times Accused of Ah-nuld Smear Campaign

LOS ANGELES – The biggest smear campaign would be to suggest that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s once mighty arms are shrinking horribly. True, of course. But that’s not what the L.A. Times has been writing about. The Times has been writing about the Austrian Oaks’ pumped up penis and how it’s gotten him into dutch with 15 women accusing the former Mr. Olympia of all but pissing publicly at the Oktoberfest.

Consequently, The Times has had about 1,000 readers cancel subscriptions and been “flooded” with angry letters, calls and e-mail protesting its coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s alleged sexual harassment of women, it reported on Sunday.

The newspaper has detailed allegations by a total of 15 women in three front-page stories since Thursday against Schwarzenegger, touching off a controversy that has consumed the final days of Tuesday’s recall election in which the actor and former Mr. Universe remains the front-runner.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has apologized in a general way for his behavior toward women, while denying the most recent allegations carried by the newspaper in stories on Saturday and Sunday.

He has also accused the Los Angeles Times of working with embattled incumbent Gov. Gray Davis in a concerted campaign of “puke politics” aimed at derailing his candidacy.

The newspaper has had about 1,000 readers cancel subscriptions and received some 400 phone calls critical of its coverage, “many angry, some profane,” as of Saturday, it reported in a story carried inside Sunday’s newspaper.

Readers have complained the newspaper singled out Schwarzenegger for critical coverage because of a liberal bias or ran its stories too close to Tuesday’s vote, it said.

One reader, Bill Agee, said the newspapers stories were dropped “like stink bombs at the last moment to ruin the momentum (Schwarzenegger’s) got.”

Los Angeles Times Editor John Carrol was quoted defending the timing of the Schwarzenegger stories, citing the compressed schedule of the recall campaign and the newspaper’s critical coverage of both Davis and independent candidate Arianna Huffington, now campaigning against Schwarzenegger.

The newspaper had been working on its initial front-page story for seven weeks and did not receive tips from any of Schwarzenegger’s political foes, Carrol said.

Mostly, the newspaper’s reporters had just made “cold calls” to people working in the film industry and women listed in the credits of movies starring Schwarzenegger, he said.

On the Schwarzenegger campaign, meanwhile, anger at the state’s largest newspaper has become a rallying cry.

Before a Schwarzenegger rally in Modesto, California on Saturday, one speaker, Rob Johnson, a radio host, urged the crowd to make the media feel welcome.

“Except for the guy. … Who’s the guy with the L.A. Times? Find him and beat him up would you?” Johnson said jokingly, according to the newspaper.

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