The Other Schwarzenegger-Shriver Shoe Drops

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Schwarzenegger on April 4, 2011, in Cannes, France

(Updated) So much for the theories. It turns out that the cause of the shocking Schwarzenegger-Shriver shplit is not so mysterious after all. The Los Angeles Times has discovered that the former California governor fathered a child with a member of his household staff of 20 years.

In a statement with a robust amount of the customary self-flagellation, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he told wife Maria Shriver about the child, who is now more than 10 years old, in January, after he left office. “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses, and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”

(More on See pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

He might also want to apologize to California voters, who may not have elected him for two terms had they known about the weight he was lifting on the side. It’s not just that he had an extramarital dalliance; it’s that he let his wife stand up and vouch for his integrity after several women reported that he had a history of groping. Shriver’s intervention came at a politically crucial time for Schwarzenegger, and he knew he was making a liar out of her.

Moreover, while there’s no suggestion that the sex was not consensual, it was still incredibly unwise. As countless sexual-harassment suits have proved, when there is an unequal balance of power between the participants, consensual is a relative term. Schwarzenegger was the employer of this woman, who has not been named. She relied on him for her salary, and possibly lived with the family. What may have been the consequences of refusing his advances?

Update [12:52 p.m.]: Shriver released a statement of her own, probably after a barrage of press requests. “This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal. I will have no further comment.”

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For Schwarzenegger, the news broke at a bad juncture in the news cycle, hot on the heels of the shocking arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid. The image of a high-powered, wealthy political figure forcing himself on a member of the domestic staff is hard to shake.

Of course, the two cases are not the same. Schwarzenegger has been financially responsible for the child, and if his advances had been totally unwanted, it’s hard to imagine the woman remaining in his employment for another decade.

(More on See the top 10 political sex scandals.)

Nevertheless, this may cost Schwarzenegger dearly. As the old saying goes, it’s not who you lie with; it’s who you lie to. And Schwarzenegger lied to everyone.