Schwarzenegger stands by "girlie men" remark
July 20 2004 12:00 AM ET
Democrats aren't amused by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's use of the mocking term "girlie men" to describe some lawmakers, although a spokesman for the governor said no apology would be forthcoming. Schwarzenegger dished out the insult at a rally Saturday as he claimed Democrats were delaying the state budget by catering to special interests. Democrats protested that the remark was sexist and homophobic. "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers...if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men," Schwarzenegger said to the cheering crowd at a mall food court in Ontario, Calif. The governor lifted the term from a long-running Saturday Night Live skit in which two pompous Schwarzenegger-worshipping weightlifters repeatedly use it to mock those who don't meet their standards of physical perfection.
Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. Openly lesbian state senator Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to "blatant homophobia." "It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it
was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership," said Kuehl, one of five members of the legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus.
The gay group Log Cabin Republicans on Monday issued a statement defending Schwarzenegger against what they described as "partisan attacks" resulting from a harmless comment. "The attacks from the left claiming that Governor Schwarzenegger is a homophobe are patently outrageous," said Log Cabin executive director Patrick Guerriero. "There are real issues for the gay and lesbian community, and the governor has been on the front line of those issues standing with us." Log Cabin California was the only gay and lesbian organization to endorse Schwarzenegger's candidacy last year. "It is outrageous that anyone would accuse Governor Schwarzenegger of being antigay," Guerriero continued. "The governor is one of the most inclusive governors in the nation regardless of party affiliation. This is a time when the gay and lesbian community should be uniting to fight antigay legislation and reaching out to our allies in both parties. This is not the time for baseless partisan attacks and mind-numbing political correctness."
Schwarzenegger's criticism of Democrats stems in part from their support of one bill prohibiting schools from contracting services with private companies and another giving workers authority to sue their employers to enforce labor laws. Each side accuses the other of caving in to special interests. At a rally Sunday in Stockton, the governor gave a speech almost identical to the one he delivered in Ontario but without the "girlie men" remark. Spokesman Rob Stutzman said the line was dropped because Schwarzenegger had already sent the message he wanted to send, not because he regretted his remarks. "It's a forceful way of making the point to regular Californians that legislators are wimps when they let special interests push them around," Stutzman said. "If they complain too much about this, I guess they're making the governor's point."
Openly gay assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who is chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, said he was glad Schwarzenegger didn't repeat the "girlie men" remark Sunday, saying it was "as misogynist as it is antigay.... To disparage a group of law-abiding, taxpaying citizens is just wrong." Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, said that while he wasn't upset by the remark, his 13-year-old daughter was: "She's a young girl who knows the governor and really likes him a lot and didn't find the term to be a positive term and finds it to be derogatory. It was no question a very, very insensitive comment to make. I personally am not intimidated or threatened by it, but I think it really is beneath Governor Schwarzenegger."