The Los Angeles Times
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped by “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Wednesday, trading quips with the host in an appearance that rankled his political foes, who contended that it was little more than free air time as the campaign for governor enters its final month.
Though most of the segment was lighthearted repartee, Schwarzenegger did caution that the United States needed to find an exit strategy from the war in Iraq “as quickly as possible.” And he criticized Washington lawmakers for accomplishing little because of partisan politics.
The biggest guffaw of the night came when Leno asked about campaign ads attempting to link the Republican governor to President Bush.
“To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar,” said Schwarzenegger, who’s never been nominated for the show biz prize. “I mean, that’s ridiculous.”
Schwarzenegger’s banter with Leno caused serious complaining on the part of the governor’s Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, who trails Schwarzenegger in the polls. Angelides’ campaign staff said the challenger should have the same amount of time as the governor on the late-night program.
A few dozen Angelides supporters staged a noisy protest outside the NBC studios in Burbank where the program is taped, chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Schwarzenegger’s got to go.”
Cathy Calfo, Angelides’ campaign manager, wrote a letter to 11 NBC affiliates in California asking for the equal time because Angelides hadn’t been invited and Schwarzenegger hadn’t canceled.
“I hereby demand that your affiliate provide Phil Angelides with equal time, if you carry Gov. Schwarzenegger’s appearance on ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” Calfo wrote. She then went on to suggest several legal precedents for her demand.
Tracy St. Pierre, an NBC spokeswoman, said she had not received a letter asking for equal time.
“He’ll be considered, just like any other guest,” St. Pierre said of Angelides. “He’s not scheduled.”
Schwarzenegger has been a frequent guest of Leno over the years; in fact, he used the show to announce his surprise candidacy for governor in August 2003.
On the show Wednesday, the governor said “a lot of mistakes were made” in Iraq, his most pointed criticism to date of the Bush administration’s handling of the war. And he chastised Washington lawmakers for their partisan infighting. He described Washington as a place where “really nothing gets much done at all.”
As the talk show was being taped, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) said he had written a letter to the Federal Communications Commission saying that NBC will be violating the Federal Communication’s Act’s equal time provisions by allowing Schwarzenegger but not Angelides to appear.
Meanwhile, supporters of Proposition 89, the campaign-finance initiative on the November ballot, attempted to capitalize on the situation by purchasing advertising time during the show. They have produced a 30-second ad that suggests that Schwarzenegger broke his promise to clean out special interests from Sacramento, and scheduled it to run in Monterey, Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara during the show.
“This initiative is finally giving people the opportunity to do something about the problem they thought they were answering in the recall,” said Jamie Court with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, a backer of the public-financing initiative.
Contact the author at: [email protected]
Times staff writer Robert Salladay contributed to this report. For exclusive web features, including the new Political Muscle blog, go to: www.latimes.com/californiapolitics.