When the news of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 30-year-long history of alleged sexual harassment broke, he denied it. Then he said he couldn't remember. Next, he flippantly apologized. After that, he made a promise to the women and girls of California that there would be an investigation. Now that he is governor, he is reneging on that promise.
Schwarzenegger announced this week that he is dropping his plan to hire a private investigator to examine sexual harassment claims, stating, via spokesman Rob Stutzman, "There was very little point to the investigation" and "the time has come to move on." Most would agree, in fact, there is very little point to a private investigation. But, there is much purpose to an independent, public one:
-- First, alleged sexual assault is nothing to take lightly. We all deserve to know the truth, whatever that may be, once and for all. Period.
-- Second, Schwarzenegger flatly promised he would investigate. Following through with his campaign promise shows he is a man of his word, not a man full of empty campaign rhetoric. Backpedaling on his promises so early in his tenure bodes poorly not only for the women and girls of California, but for all Californians to whom Schwarzenegger promised to be the "people's governor."
Stutzman portrays the allegations as "quite too political." This statement is in and of itself very political -- and very clever. It intends to distract us from the sizable issue of sexual assault and its implications and turns the discussion to tit-for-tat politics -- a move that should offend women everywhere. It especially demeans the women who made the allegations and are presumably dealing with the very real and painful after- effects of assault.
On the campaign trail, Schwarzenegger stated, "When I am governor, I want to prove to the women that I will be a champion for the women, a champion of the women, and I hope that you will give me the chance to do that."
A real champion of women meets with his detractors as he promised he would, listening to their concerns. A real champion of women takes the sexual harassment training course as a role model for all of California's state employees. A real champion of women appoints women to office with a proven track record of working for women and girls. A real champion of women follows through with his campaign promises and knows it isn't for him to decide when to "move on" from serious sexual assault allegations.
But Schwarzenegger is showing us what he does with the chance to prove himself. Sadly, it seems the message to the thousands of California women and girls who took to the streets to speak out about the allegations and demanded an independent investigation is that he plans to be a champion to nobody but himself.