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Oct 12, 2006 - 01:00 AM

by Edwin Garcia and Steve Harmon

Angelides demands NBC drop governor interview on 'Leno'

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sat in a television studio Wednesday afternoon taping a segment for "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,'' his Democratic rival in the governor's race, Phil Angelides, told a gathering of San Jose school teachers he was trying to prevent NBC stations from airing the segment.

Angelides -- who tried unsuccessfully to book himself on the show, after learning Schwarzenegger would appear -- urged the television network to pull the Wednesday night program, saying Jay Leno failed to provide "equal time'' to his political rival as required by

"If NBC at the height of election season is going to give the governor that time,'' Angelides said in response to a reporter's question, "he ought to give me and these teachers and the schoolchildren of the state of California equal time so we can tell the truth about what Gov. Schwarzenegger has done as governor of the state of California: He's cut education.''

His remarks received healthy applause from 30 teachers gathered around him at Horace Mann Elementary School, where he focused his comments on funding education, balancing the state budget and recruiting more teachers.

Angelides' appearance came minutes after his campaign manager, Cathy Calfo, released a stern letter sent to the 11 NBC affiliates in California in which she demanded they "either pull `The Tonight Show' broadcast featuring Gov. Schwarzenegger,'' or "offer Phil Angelides equal time on your station.''

The affiliate in San Jose, which airs across the Bay Area, didn't budge.

"At this time, we're airing it,'' said Meredith Smith, the station's public relations manager. "We're following the lead of NBC corporate.''

During the 15-minute segment, Schwarzenegger chatted about his family, national politics and his job as governor.

His appearance was considered an official governor's visit, which means he couldn't legally use the occasion to campaign. However, at one point Leno asked Schwarzenegger whether it's "fair'' to be compared to President Bush in political ads.

"To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar,'' Schwarzenegger said to widespread laughter and applause. "I'm my own man.''

When asked to comment on the war in Iraq, Schwarzenegger took perhaps his strongest stance ever on the topic: "Without any doubt, we have to find an exit strategy as quickly as possible.''

NBC considers the program a news event, which allows the network to air political segments as it sees fit, the network said in a statement, without invoking the equal time rule established by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Angelides campaign, which has yet to hear from the FCC on a complaint filed Tuesday by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, called the decision unfair.

"This is an infomercial for the governor less than a month from Election Day and as absentee voters are casting their ballot,'' said Steve Maviglio, an Angelides spokesman.

"It's really tragic when a network is essentially giving one candidate millions of dollars in free airtime during the heat of an election.''

Earlier in the day, Angelides told the Mercury News editorial board that Schwarzenegger's appearance on the program shows contempt for Californians, "that somehow they can be gamed and they can be quipped and they can be showmanned.''

Schwarzenegger's segment, comes three years after he appeared there to announce his candidacy for governor in the 2003 recall election.
Contact Edwin Garcia at or (916) 441-4651.

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