LOS ANGELES – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traded quips with the host one moment and criticized U.S. foreign policy the next during an appearance Wednesday on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that had the governor's opponents crying foul because his Democratic rival wasn't included.
When asked by Leno about TV campaign ads attempting to link Schwarzenegger to President Bush, the star of the "Terminator" films mocked the notion.
"To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar," said the governor, who has never won — or even been nominated for — acting's most prestigious award.
On a more serious subject, the Republican governor said a "lot of mistakes" were made during the war in Iraq, but ducked a question from Leno about whether Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should be fired.
"Without any doubt, we have to find an exit strategy as quickly as possible," he said.
The remarks represented Schwarzenegger's most pointed criticism to date of the Bush administration over its Iraq policy. He has previously said he supports the war, but that the nation should find a "sensible" way to get out.
His appearance on "The Tonight Show" riled supporters of his opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, whose campaign said he wants equal time.
A few dozen Angelides supporters staged a protest outside the NBC studios where "The Tonight Show" is taped, chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Schwarzenegger's got to go."
Angelides campaign manager Cathy Calfo said she sent a letter Wednesday to 11 NBC affiliates in California asking them to give equal time to the state treasurer because "The Tonight Show" has not invited him onto the program.
NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre said "The Tonight Show" never received a letter Angelides' camp said it sent, but the state treasurer's spokesman, Steve Maviglio, provided a copy of the letter he said the campaign faxed on Tuesday, along with a UPS shipping receipt to have the letter sent overnight and delivered by Wednesday morning.
U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, accusing NBC of violating the Federal Communications Act's equal time provisions by allowing Schwarzenegger but not Angelides to appear.
Federal rules require broadcast stations to give equal time to candidates who appear on the air, although the rules do not apply to news programs, interview shows and documentaries in which the candidate is not the sole focus.
The equal time question came up during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, when Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy on Leno's show in a surprise announcement.
Leno asked Schwarzenegger on Wednesday about the sex scandal that recently drove Republican Rep. Mark Foley from Congress. Asked if it warranted House Speaker Dennis Hastert's resignation, the governor didn't answer directly.
"Anyone that has any knowledge of it or has tried to cover it up should go — absolutely should go," he said.
As the appearance ended, Leno wished his guest well.
"Good luck, my friend," he said, shaking Schwarzenegger's hand.