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Arnold Schwarzenegger: I stepped over the line on sexual harassment

When it comes to sexual harassment, Arnold Schwarzenegger admits he was once part of the problem. But he says – long before #MeToo – he took concrete steps to bring about change on both a personal and professional level.

Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron.Credit:AP

In 2003, a month before Schwarzenegger became governor of California, The Los Angeles Times published a story in which six women accused the actor of groping them between the 1970s and 2000.

"Looking back, I stepped over the line several times, and I was the first one to say sorry. I feel bad about it, and I apologise," he told Men's Health in an interview published on Wednesday.

He said he set about trying to make sure those mistakes were never repeated.

"When I became governor, I wanted to make sure that no one, including me, ever makes this mistake," he explained.

"That's why we took sexual harassment courses, to have a clear understanding, from a legal point of view and also from a regular-behavior point of view, of what is accepted and what is not."

And while Schwarzenegger, 71, said his views on masculinity have not changed substantially, he does regret calling his opponents "girlie men" when he was running for office.

Eventually, he realised that antagonising the people he needed to work with only netted him a funny soundbite.

"At the time it felt like the right thing to do. It was in my gut. I improvised it. I called them girlie men because they weren't willing to take risks," he said.

"They were afraid of everything. Politicians, in general, want to do little things so there's no risk involved. But it was shortsighted. In the long term, it's better to not say that, because you want to work with them."

Schwarzenegger, who governed as a Republican but refused to endorse Donald Trump's candidacy and has since criticised the President's environmental policies and divisive rhetoric, expressed a longing for the days when Washington was far less tribal.

"If you have a little sense of history, you know that the best things are accomplished when both parties work together and start compromising, like Ronald Reagan did with (then-Democratic House Speaker) Tip O'Neill," he said.

"They argued in public and attacked each other, but with a little wink. That's why so much got done in the Reagan administration. When you can reach out across the aisle and work together, you can get much more accomplished, rather than 'girlie men' or '(expletive) you' or 'it's my way or the highway.'"

McClatchy

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