It was disturbing to read today’s LA Times story about the several women who say that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped and harassed them. Not because I put him on a pedestal — believe me, that’s far from the case — and not because the story gets graphic (it doesn’t), but because Arnold didn’t think he was doing anything wrong at the time.

Worse, these women couldn’t make a fuss about it because the culture of rich and famous movie stars means that their actions get laughed off, while the victims have to keep quiet or suffer the consequences. If the guy trying to fondle them had been an assistant cameraman or a caterer, it would have been different — but Arnold was a Major Marquee Attraction. So none of them filed a police report, none of them filed a lawsuit, none of them went running to the press.

That makes their claims even more believable to me. For while you could brush off a single accusation as sour grapes or any number of reasons, when there are a half-dozen women who point to ugly incidents over the course of quarter-century (the most recent in 2000), you’re looking at a blatant pattern of misbehavior.

Today, Arnold acknowledged the story, no doubt wishing he could use some special effect to travel back in time to tell himself — repeatedly — not to act like a jerk. In confessing, he tried to simultaneously spin the story and apologize for it: “Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful, but now I recognize that I have offended people. And those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize, because this is not what I’m trying to do.”

Yes, he’s deeply sorry — sorry that this story came out now, when he was on the cusp of winning the gubernatorial recall election next Tuesday. But he wasn’t sorry enough two years ago, when these allegations first appeared in an issue of Premiere magazine. There was no public apology or acknowledgment then. Of course, at the time, he wasn’t a candidate, just a movie star. And there’s your double standard right there. In 2001, he didn’t have to cry mea culpa, but now he does.

A woman said to me today, “How could his wife put up with this? After all, she’s from a rather refined background.” Wrong! Maria Shriver is from the Kennedy family, for whom power, sex, money, and women have always been an aphrodisiac. No wonder Arnold fit in so well.

It’s one thing for a young, single man to engage in a large amount of sexual activity or even a gangbang, as Arnold claimed he did in the infamous 1977 Oui interview. Some have attacked him for those admissions, claiming they proved his negative attitudes toward women. To the contrary, if it was consensual, he did nothing more than a lot of other guys have done — even if it was in larger numbers — with women who were willing participants.

However, these accusations are not about consensual activity. They’re about groping, taunting, and using his powerful position to make women uncomfortable, all for his personal enjoyment.

The LA Times says no politician provided them with any of this information, nor did any of the women seek the paper out to tell their tale. Naturally, Arnold’s supporters don’t buy that for a second. They immediately insisted that the release of these claims at this time was nothing more than “dirty politics.”

Wouldn’t it have been refreshing if they spent even one minute expressing some sympathy for the women who were the alleged victims? I didn’t hear a single Arnold-ite stand up and say, “If these allegations are true, Schwarzenegger has a history of demeaning and sexually harassing women. Those are not the attributes we want in a leader, or in a movie star!”

Think of how you would react if some man groped your wife, or daughter, or sister, but she had to keep her mouth shut or say “hasta la vista” to her own career. You’d want that guy terminated.