LOS ANGELES – Organizers of Los Angeles' Mexican Independence Day parade (search) twice invited Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) to be grand marshal before formally rescinding the invitation a day before the event, Fox News has learned.
After asking the international film star and California gubernatorial candidate to serve as grand marshal, organizers later reduced Schwarzenegger's role to riding in a vehicle well back in the parade sequence. Schwarzenegger accepted the diminished role, but when told Saturday he could not participate at all released a blunt statement blaming the withdrawal on partisan politics.
"I was looking forward to being with so many of my friends in the Mexican-American community to celebrate Mexico and its culture. Unfortunately, it seems that the politicians have gotten involved and I have been uninvited," the statement read. "I am looking forward to campaigning in California's Latino communities to share my message of respect, tolerance and inclusiveness. ... I am sure all Californians will see this for what it is, and will rally to my campaign."
Schwarzenegger was asked to be the parade's grand marshal through letters and e-mails, both before and after he announced his candidacy in the recall race. Representatives of the Comite Mexicano Civico Patriotico (Mexican Patriotic Civic Committee) (search) refused to rescind their invitation in writing, but verbally requested Saturday that Schwarzenegger not attend.
The sequence of events takes on larger meaning as the recall candidates vie for the support of California's Latino voters. Internal Democratic polls continue to show Schwarzenegger outperforming incumbent Gov. Gray Davis, who is expected at the parade, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante among young Latino males, the largest growing segment of California's Latino vote, Fox News has learned.
This development has disturbed Democrats eager to hold on to the governorship, and may have played a role in Davis' decision to sign a bill Friday that provides a driver's license to any undocumented alien who can provide a tax identification number. The principal beneficiaries of the law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, will be young Latino males who commute to jobs in the Central Valley or Southern California.
Democrats last week accused Schwarzenegger of using divisive politics against Latinos, charges that have largely fallen on deaf ears because the Austria-born actor has not pushed immigration as an issue. He has said he would rescind the new driver's license law if elected, but that position is no different than the one Davis has taken the last two years when he vetoed tougher versions of the bill citing insufficient protections against abuse by criminals or potential terrorists.
The flap over Schwarzenegger's role in the parade is likely to intensify the battle over who best appeals to Latino voters.
Fox News has obtained copies of the communication between parade organizers and the Schwarzenegger camp that indicate a dramatic change of heart in recent days.
The first invitation, dated Aug. 5, was sent by Gina Guerena Felix-Goldman and appears on the letterhead of the Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles and on behalf of the Comite Mexicano Civico Patriotico.
"We would like to personally invite you to be the official Grand Marshal for the Mexican Independence Parade on Sept. 7. This event is seen by many Latinos and it would be a great honor to have you accept this invitation. You are a huge icon for the Spanish community," the invitation read in part.
A second invitation, in the form of an e-mail from Felix-Goldman, was received by the scheduling department of Schwarzenegger's campaign on Aug. 22.
"On behalf of the Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles and the Mexican Patriotic Civic Committee of Los Angeles, we would like to extend an invitation to Mr. Arnold Schwatrzenegger [sic] to be the Grand Marshal of the Mexican Independence Parade on Sept. 7 ... Mr. Swartznegger [sic] is a huge personality icon in the Latino community and many people would like the Terminator to be the Grand Marshal of the parade."
The Schwarzenegger campaign sent a letter on Aug. 27 confirming his acceptance.
Schwarzenegger aides told Fox News they began to hear rumblings on Sept. 1 that Arnold's status in the parade may be in jeopardy. On Sept. 1, another parade official called the campaign to say Felix-Goldman had not been authorized to extend an invitation to Schwarzenegger and that the actor's role in the parade was now under review.
On Sept. 2, the campaign received another call from parade organizers saying Schwarzenegger could no longer be the grand marshal because he took too long to formally accept the invitation.
On Friday, parade organizers telephoned to say Schwarzenegger could participate but would have to ride in a car in the back of the parade with representatives of his Inner City Games afterschool program, aides told Fox News. Schwarzenegger was willing to accept the less visible role, the aides said.
The next day, the Schwarzenegger campaign received a call informing them that he had been officially disinvited. The campaign demanded the Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles send a formal letter advising the candidate that all initiations to participate in a parade he'd twice been asked to attend had been rescinded.
A Schwarzenegger spokesman told Fox News no written confirmation of the rescinded invitation had been received as of 6:15 p.m. PDT.
Schwarzenegger on Sunday will attend an Inner City Games softball tournament in East Los Angeles.