Thursday, October 12, 2006

Schwarzenegger tells Leno link to Bush is "ridiculous"

Schwarzenegger tells Leno link to Bush is "ridiculous"
By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger distanced himself from President George W. Bush on national television on Wednesday, saying he was as far from his fellow Republican as he was from winning an Academy Award during his film career.

"To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar," the former bodybuilder and Hollywood action star joked during an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." "That's ridiculous."

It was Schwarzenegger's fifth guest spot on the late-night comedy show since he used a 2003 appearance on the program to announce his first campaign for public office in 2003.

The governor's Democratic challenger in his bid for a second term, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, complained NBC was snubbing him while unfairly giving Schwarzenegger valuable media exposure weeks before the election.

A spokesman for the Angelides campaign accused NBC of violating federal rules that generally require broadcasters to give opposing candidates equal time.

"The governor has spent $35 million in launching negative attack ads against Phil Angelides, and now NBC is just giving him further free time on national network TV to campaign," the spokesman, Brian Brokaw, told Reuters.

Rallying to Angelides' cause in Washington, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, saying an exclusive appearance by the governor on Leno's show would "constitute a clear violation of the equal time rule."

NBC said the governor's appearance fell under an equal-time exemption that allows for bona fide news interviews.

An FCC spokesman said the agency does not comment on complaints about broadcasts before they air. But the agency has held that the news-interview exemption applied to appearances by politicians on such entertainment programs as "Donahue," "Politically Incorrect" and "The Howard Stern Show."

Schwarzenegger, who holds a commanding lead over his opponent in recent polls, spoke generally on Wednesday night about his first term as governor and about national politics. But no mention was made of Angelides.

The only reference to the gubernatorial campaign came when Leno asked Schwarzenegger about his opponents' efforts in TV ads to link the governor with Bush, who is unpopular with many California voters.

"I'm my own man. ... To make that linkage is ridiculous," Schwarzenegger said.

NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre said "The Tonight Show" had yet to receive a request in writing or by telephone from Angelides. Otherwise, she said, "He'll be considered just like any other guest who is pitched to the show."