UPDATED: Arnold Schwarzenegger will not appear at an awards dinner for California Common Cause on Friday night, after a group of activists threatened to stage a protest calling attention to his history of sexual harassment allegations.
Common Cause later rescinded the award.
The good-government group originally planned to present Schwarzenegger with the “We the People Award” for his work on gerrymandering reform at the dinner at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Daniel Ketchell, a spokesman for the former governor, said Thursday that Schwarzenegger was unable to attend, but believed Common Cause was still giving him the award.
But Karen Pomer, one of the organizers of the protest, said that Common Cause assured her that Schwarzenegger would not receive the honor.
“Effectively, they rescinded the honor,” Pomer said. “They asked him not to attend.”
Kathay Feng, the executive director of California Common Cause, did not return several messages seeking comment.
As governor, Schwarzenegger backed the 2008 and 2010 ballot initiatives that took redistricting away from the state Legislature and put it in the hands of an independent commission. Common Cause has long worked closely with Schwarzenegger on that issue across the country. In October, Schwarzenegger spoke at a Common Cause rally outside the Supreme Court in opposition to partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
The group originally announced that Schwarzenegger would be honored alongside the members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Stan Forbes, the chair of the commission, said he still planned to attend and had “no idea” whether Schwarzenegger’s honor was being rescinded. Representatives for state Sen. Ben Allen and Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state, confirmed that they both will attend and collect awards for their work on voting issues.
Schwarzenegger’s history of alleged harassment has largely escaped reexamination in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. But in recent days, activists organized a MoveOn.org petition urging Common Cause to rescind the honor, describing Schwarzenegger as a “serial harasser.”
“No one should attend this event unless Common Cause supports victims, not perpetrators, of sexual harassment by rescinding Arnold’s invitation,” the petition stated.
Common Cause has since removed the names of the honorees from the event information page on its website.
Shortly before Schwarzenegger was elected in 2003, the L.A. Times reported that six women alleged Schwarzenegger groped and humiliated them over the course of more than 20 years. In 2011, the Times reported that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with his housekeeper.
The issue is a delicate one for Common Cause, as Schwarzenegger, a Republican, provides a bipartisan cast to its voting reform efforts.
California Common Cause confirms that it has rescinded the award due to the harassment controversy. Read the group’s full statement:
The #metoo movement is a critically important cultural moment for our country, and one we embrace. We at Common Cause believe that sexual harassment and violence is unacceptable and support courageous women and men who are raising their voices and telling their stories, especially when doing so can be and usually is difficult and painful.
More than a year ago, we decided to recognize Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at our Spotlight on California awards for over a decade’s worth of work on ensuring a fair and honest democracy. When few others would, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined us in the fight against partisan gerrymandering, whether by Republicans or Democrats, in California and nationally.
In this moment, former Governor Schwarzenegger does not want to be a distraction to the ongoing important democracy work of Common Cause. He will not be attending our awards event. We will not be giving an award to former Governor Schwarzenegger.
We are excited to move forward with honoring the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Senator Ben Allen, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla for their work to reform redistricting, take money out of politics, and build a more inclusive democracy.