Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) is seeking an apology for remarks by California Gov. Gray Davis (search) about his accent, but Davis is sticking to his guns, saying the "joke" he made isn't as bad as Schwarzenegger's record.
At a campaign stop on Saturday, Davis told one potential voter that "you shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state," an apparent reference to the Austrian-born actor's accent.
On Sunday, Schwarzenegger, who came to the United States during the late 1960s, responded that he does pronounce "Cal-a-for-nia" as "Cal-ee-for-nia," but it's not the only word Davis doesn't like to hear.
"He doesn't like 'lost jobs,' he doesn't like that word," Schwarzenegger said after participating in an awards ceremony for Inner City Games, a youth foundation he supports. "He doesn't like 'blackouts,' he doesn't like 'energy crisis.' And he definitely doesn't like 'recall.'"
Davis made his remarks to about 300 members of the Los Angeles Ironworkers Local 433 (search), Davis suggested Schwarzenegger — whom he referred to only as "the actor" — would repeal Davis-backed union gains such as daily overtime pay and family-leave benefits, reported the Sacramento Bee.
"I've signed 300 bills to help working people," Davis said. "These are measures that strengthen your lives. Now my opponent, this actor, says, 'I'm not going to ask for support from working people because they are a special interest.' He's got part of it right. You are special, and you have an important and special role to play in our future, and I am proud to stand with you."
Whipped into an anti-Schwarzenegger frenzy at the picnic, one crowd member screamed, "He's a foreigner!" as Davis criticized Schwarzenegger, who hopes to take over his seat in the Oct. 7 recall election.
The man who made the foreigner comment later apologized to Davis for making the remark.
Davis told him not to worry, the Bee reported, and added with a smile, "You shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state," in an apparent reference to Schwarzenegger's Austrian accent.
When later asked about his remark, and Schwarzenegger's demand for an apology, Davis, flanked by Hispanic lawmakers at an East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day parade that Schwarzenegger had planned to attend before organizers booted him out, said he made it in jest.
"I was just joking around with someone in the crowd," Davis said after the parade.
But he added "it's not a joke" that Schwarzenegger voted for Proposition 187, a measure passed by voters in 1994 to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving some state social services. The court invalidated the proposition championed by Pete Wilson (search), a Republican who was then governor and is now co-chairman of Schwarzenegger's campaign.
Davis' wife, Sharon Davis, also defended her husband.
"I guess in politics everything on politics is fair game. But it really was just a joke. It's gotten blown out of proportion. We think that most voters are more concerned about the fact that this election costs $70 million, that there are more important issues that they care about than this small issue that is going to be gone tomorrow," she told Fox News.
Davis said it's also no joke that Schwarzenegger would encourage the repeal of a law signed by Davis on Friday that would allow illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses.
Joking or not, Davis did not cut down a remark made to him later on the same day at an Asian American rally in Alhambra. There, a South Korea immigrant appointed to the Workforce Investment Board suggested that Schwarzenegger's accent hindered his governing abilities.
"He can't even speak English well. How can he govern the state of California?" Sukhee Kang, who emigrated in 1977, asked the crowd before Davis arrived, the Bee reported.
Davis took another opportunity here to bash Schwarzenegger.
"He just fights in movies," Davis said, the Bee reported. "I served in a real war to defend this country and I've worked hard to advance the interests of Asian Pacific Californians."
Schwarzenegger spokesman Todd Harris told The Associated Press that Davis should apologize to the candidate and "to every other immigrant who comes to California in pursuit of the American dream."