Arnold Schwarzenegger's first political debate was a heated affair, a competitor accused him of mistreating women and was met with a vicious attack.

The Terminator star has avoided debates thus far in his race to be Governor of California, opting instead for friendlier talk shows and radio spots - but took part in yesterday's (24SEP03) televised discussion in Sacramento, and was forced to face some harsh criticism.

Independent candidate Arianna Huffington and Democratic deputy Governor CRUZ BUSTAMANTE accused Schwarzenegger of not knowing the facts, and he responded, "Everything is not fine and dandy here in California. You are trying to put wool over the people's eyes."

When the action star attempted to cut in during one of Huffington's answers, she fumed, "This is the way you treat women, we know that."

The moderator STAN STATHAM called that a "direct and personal attack" on the actor, and gave him a chance to respond.

He shot back, "I would just like to say that I just realised I have a perfect part for you in TERMINATOR 4," apparently alluding to a scene in TERMINATOR 3 in which his character pushes the head of a female robot into a toilet.

An amazed Statham interjected, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not COMEDY CENTRAL, I swear."

Meanwhile current Governor Gray Davis, who faces a possible recall in the upcoming election, has blasted the star for missing 'real' debates and sticking to formats where he knows the questions beforehand, thus avoiding his opponents' claims that he doesn't understand the real issues at stake.

Davis told reporters a few hours before the debate, "I think it is kind of ironic that the only debate that Schwarzenegger is participating in is the one you have the questions in advance. Part of being governor is handling uncertainty. When we were attacked on 9/11, there was no road map as to what to do."

And Davis also blasted the Hollywood star's broken promises, saying, "He said he would not take special interest money; now he is taking millions. He said he would not run attack ads; now he has. And he said he would debate people; and now he will only do it if he gets the questions in advance."

25/09/2003 17:19