We all knew it was in the works, and even people at the paper despaired whether it would ever see the light of day, but the word was that the Los Angeles Times was trying to be exhaustive in its investigation of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s background.

The more fitting word to describe it is exhausted.

Published four days before the election after seven weeks of reporting by three Times staffers, the article turned out to be nothing more than another detailing of Schwarzenegger’s “grab and grope” behavior not just similar to John Connolly’s Premiere article back in 2001 but even with one of the same women cited in his story. That may not be a coincidence.

The L.A. Weekly has learned that the Times’ much-vaunted new investigative reporter, Gary Cohn, started his reporting on this piece by calling — get this — Connolly.

According to Connolly, Cohn asked him not to pen an article but to “maybe help us out a little” without pay or credit. Responded Connolly: “I don’t think so.” Nor does he now think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

It’s a real blot on the Times’ new administration that the article doesn’t advance the Schwarzenegger character story one iota. And it’s not an auspicious debut for Cohn, who was hand-picked by old pal editor John Carroll. This is so typical of the Times, especially on entertainment-related stories: a lot of anticipation during the reporting only to be followed by disappointing results. There’s not even a sidebar that tries to get to the bottom of why the women making the sexual-harassment charges are so convinced they’ll be blackballed if the movie industry knows their names. What a pity that Hollywood can rest assured it’s still business as usual on Spring Street despite the different ownership.

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