Arnold Schwarzenegger on Leno: Bush link ‘ridiculous’

LOS ANGELES- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger knows how to work the media, with his charm and poise on camera.  He went on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and distanced himself from President George W. Bush on national television on Wednesday, saying he was as far from President George Bush 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.”

Schwarzenegger has appeared on Leno five times, the late-night comedy chat show since he used a 2003 appearance on the program to announce his first campaign for public office in 2003.

Democratic challenger state Treasurer Phil Angelides has 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 FCC exemption that allows for bona fide news interviews.

Schwarzenegger, who holds a strong lead over his opponent in recent polls, spoke generally on Wednesday night about his first term as governor and about matters that weigh on him.

Leno asked Schwarzenegger about Angelides efforts in TV ads to link the governor with Bush.

“I’m my own man. … To make that linkage is ridiculous,” Schwarzenegger said.

NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre released a statement saying “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.”

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