By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
On the eve of the California recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign was responsible for using Los Angeles and national media to perpetrate a dirty trick against a Hollywood stuntwoman after she accused him of groping her. Spurred by a provocative e-mail sent by Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Sean Walsh, some local and national television and radio personalities broadcast false information that the woman, Rhonda Miller, had a six-page rap sheet of felony arrests and convictions when the truth was she has never been in trouble with the law. The misinformation that she had a criminal record on file in L.A. Superior Court would not be corrected until after the election.
What is most astonishing about the smear by the Schwarzenegger campaign is not just how little publicity it’s received, but that neither the governor-elect nor his representatives have yet to apologize to Miller. And Walsh by all appearances was not fired or disciplined for his action.
Instead, Walsh confirmed to L.A. Weekly on Monday that he is now continuing to work for Schwarzenegger as part of the transition team. When reached on his cell phone, he described sitting next to the governor-elect’s spokesman, H.D. Palmer, while driving through San Diego County for Schwarzenegger’s visits to wildfire-devastated areas.
A well-known California Republican political consultant who was a spokesman for former Governor Pete Wilson and then for former Secretary of State Bill Jones’ failed 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Walsh emerged during the recall race as Schwarzenegger’s default voice by virtue of the candidate’s unwillingness to interact personally and substantively with much of the media. But the e-mail’s very existence robs Republicans of the so-called high road they claimed during the Clinton sex scandals when they accused Bill and Hillary and their staff of defaming the women who came forward about Clinton’s sexual conduct.
Miller tells L.A. Weekly she is uncertain what legal action, if any, she plans to pursue because she is still “too upset and shell-shocked. Because I don’t know how to unfix this. It’s just the most horrifying thing to hear that you’re a prostitute and a felon and have all these grand larcenies. I didn’t even know what grand larceny was before this. Then suddenly, it’s everywhere.” She recalls feeling horrified: “‘Oh, my God, what are my family and my friends going to think? Am I going to work again in Hollywood?’ All of that was going on. It was like somebody had cracked a bottle on my head.”
Miller first surfaced around midday on October 6, the day before the recall election, front and center at a news conference called by Los Angeles lawyer Gloria Allred, California’s pugilistic defender of women’s rights. Miller told the assembled media that Schwarzenegger groped her on two occasions while she was a stunt double in the films The Terminator and True Lies.
Soon after the Miller-Allred news conference ended, an e-mail addressed to “Reporters and Editors” was sent “FROM Sean Walsh/Schwarzenegger Campaign.” The e-mail stated:
“RE RHONDA MILLER & GLORIA ALLRED PARTISAN ATTACK. It has come to our attention from the media that you can access court documents from the followiing [sic] web site http//www.lasuperiorcourt.org/Criminal/. You will have to pay a $4.75 on-line charge to access/search the site. Once you have accessed, the site, type ‘Rhonda’ in the ‘first name’ field, and ‘Miller’ in ‘last name’ field. We have to believe that as a lawyer, Gloria would have thoroughly checked the facts and background of the individual she presented at a news conference today. When one reviews Ms. Allred’s background and her campaign contributions, we will let you in the media decide whether her role in today’s event was yet another attempt to glom onto television cameras, or it was her attempt to support the partisan attacks against Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Immediately, KFI’s high-profile afternoon drive-time host John Kobylt read on the air what he purported to be “Rhonda Miller’s rap sheet.” He claimed she had convictions for prostitution (1990, 1993, 1997, 1999), forgery (1989), drug possession (1989, 1993, 1998), attempted drug possession (2001) and reckless driving (1987), as well as many other arrests.
That same day, Allred was ambushed about “Rhonda Miller’s rap sheet” on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country by MSNBC analyst Kim Serafin, the talk-show weekend host for KABC radio in Los Angeles and a former Republican operative for Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Richard Riordan. Serafin said she had “late-breaking news” during a discussion of the multiwoman groping accusations against Schwarzenegger: “This woman, Rhonda Miller, I just heard on the way over here, she has 17 convictions, 16 prostitution convictions, six drug charges convictions. She’s been convicted of theft, of felony. Once we start finding out, when we have more than a day before the election to hear about these charges, we are finding out that maybe these stories are not totally true.”