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True fact: when I was in primary school, I was scheduled to give a speech at a school assembly that just so happened to be on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign trail when he was running for governor. I didn’t really understand who he was, all I knew was that someone Famous and Interesting was coming to hear me speak. But Arnold did not show up, and I was very sad. I guess he had more important things going on. It did make me very biased against him when I was young, and I still think he has some shady things in his past, even if he’s been on the right side of history in recent years. So I wouldn’t call myself a fan overall, even if there are aspects of his legacy I respect. But now he has a docuseries on Netflix coming out and I just might watch it. Mostly because in the docuseries, he is sharing stories about his personal life, including the jaw-dropping moment when Maria Shriver, his wife, confronted him about whether or not he had fathered a son with the family housekeeper, Mildred Baena. People Magazine reveals how it went down:
Maria confronted him in a counseling session: “Maria and I went to counseling once a week,” he remembered in the docuseries, “and in one of the sessions the counselor said, ‘I think today Maria wants to be very specific about something. She wants to know if you are the father of Joseph.’ And I was like— I thought my heart stopped, and then I told the truth.”
“‘Yes, Maria, Joseph is my son,’” he recalled telling her. “She was crushed because of that. I had an affair in ’96. In the beginning I really didn’t know. I just started feeling the older he got the more it became clear to me and then it was really just a matter of how do you keep this quiet? How do you keep this a secret?”
Talking about it brings up old wounds: Schwarzenegger said he feels “reluctant talking about it is because every time I do it opens up the wounds again.”I think that I have caused enough pain for my family because of my f— up. Everyone had to suffer. Maria had to suffer. The kids had to suffer. Joseph. His mother. Everyone,” he said in the Netflix doc.
Arnold loves his son Joseph: “It was wrong what I did. But I don’t want to make Joseph feel that he is not welcomed in this world — because he is very much welcomed in this world,” he said. “I love him and he has turned out to be an extraordinary young man.”
Credit where credit is due: I’m glad that Arnold told the truth when Maria confronted him. Keeping the affair and his son a secret for fourteen years was terrible, which he acknowledges. But it could have been much worse if he had denied everything, and a lot of people do, even when the truth is undeniable. When all of this was initially in the news, I missed out on the details. I was in college and much more invested in gossip relating to One Direction, truthfully.
Anyway, this story made me think of the Caroline Calloway quote from last week about how if you have one scandal, it defines you, but if you have many scandals, people forget them all. In addition to his family drama, Arnold has also had political scandals ranging from conflicts of interest to sexual assault allegations. He also didn’t have the best voting record as governor–though compared to the people currently running the Republican Party he seems remarkably sane. But I feel like a lot of people have forgotten about the unsavory aspects of his legacy.
The fact that Arnold owns up to the pain he caused everyone around him with the affair makes me think he is either smart enough to say the right things, or truly feels bad about what he did. That’s why I want to watch this series now–I wonder if we’ll be able to tell how sincere he is.
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photos credit: Netflix, Dennis Van Tine / Avalon and Getty
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