Soon after Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the 2003 recall campaign,
a tabloid publisher that was recruiting him as a consultant tried to suppress
a risque 1983 Playboy video starring the future governor.
The video, which had first aired years before on the Playboy Channel, shows
him grabbing a scantily clad woman and making other sexually suggestive gestures.
American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, paid Thomas
Wells of Los Angeles $2,000 for a copy of the video under two agreements that
barred him from discussing it with anyone but the company.
After the Enquirer secured Wells' tape in September 2003, the tabloid
did not mention it in any articles. The video was being sold on the
Internet at the time; it is not clear whether the company knew that when it
made the purchase.
The Wells contracts, reviewed by The Times, were at least the second
instance of American Media paying for confidentiality agreements with people
who might have been in positions to embarrass the candidate over his dealings
The contracts were referred to among some American Media staff as the "David
Pecker Project." Pecker is the chief executive officer of American Media.
He had met with Schwarzenegger earlier that year to discuss a multimillion-dollar
consulting deal that made him the public face of the company's two muscle magazines,
Flex and Muscle & Fitness.
In buying Wells' copy of the video, the company prepared documents that offer
a one-sentence description of the contents: "Arnold Schwarzenegger groping
a woman in Australia." (The film was actually shot in Rio de Janeiro.)
A former American Media executive, speaking on condition of anonymity
because he signed an agreement not to talk publicly about the company, said
the firm wanted to spare Schwarzenegger possible embarrassment during his gubernatorial
"We were protecting him," the former executive said.
American Media spokesman Stuart Zakim said the company would not comment.
Asked whether the governor knew of American Media's purchase, Schwarzenegger's
communications director, Rob Stutzman, said: "The governor is not aware
of any activity from AMI.
"It was a video written about during the campaign, and it has been publicly
distributed," Stutzman added. "And above all else, it proves the governor
doesn't dance so well at times."
American Media bought the video amid discussions with Schwarzenegger over the
role he would play at the company.
Pecker had met with Schwarzenegger in his Santa Monica office in July 2003
to talk about the partnership, among other matters. Schwarzenegger signed an
agreement to work for American Media on Nov. 15, two days before he was sworn
The deal made Schwarzenegger executive editor of the two magazines and paid
him a percentage of advertising revenue. In the contract, the governor pledged
to "further the business objectives" of American Media. Schwarzenegger
severed his contract two months ago, when the arrangement was made public.
Florida-based American Media had earlier paid a Malibu woman, Gigi Goyette,
$20,000 for agreeing to keep quiet about her relationship with Schwarzenegger
and to share her story solely with American Media. That deal was signed two
days after Schwarzenegger entered the race.
The company signed a similar agreement with a friend of Goyette, Judy Mora,
who was paid $1,000 in cash, and in return agreed to reveal nothing about the
"Pecker wanted to protect Arnold, since he was very important to their
two titles, Flex and Muscle & Fitness," said a second source, who worked
at American Media at the time and also asked not to be named because he has
a confidentiality agreement with the company. "When we had embarrassing
information about Arnold, we were to buy it up off the market."
In the Goyette case, as with the videotape, the National Enquirer did not publish
a story based on the information purchased by its owner. The Enquirer had already
published an article in 2001 alleging that Goyette once had a sexual relationship
The videotape is titled "Carnival in Rio" and was made for a division
of Playboy Enterprises. The 86-minute production is hosted by Schwarzenegger
and features Rio's raucous annual pre-Lenten carnival. He provides a travelogue
against a backdrop of topless women, provocative dancing, eating, drinking and
Early on, he dances at a nightclub with three women in gold-beaded thongs and
matching bikini tops. At one point, he grabs a dancer's buttocks; she immediately
clasps his wrists and pushes his hands away.
"You know something," Schwarzenegger says in the film, "after
watching the [dancers] shake it, I can absolutely understand why Brazil is totally
devoted to my favorite body part: the ass."
In a later scene at a dining table, he slowly feeds a woman a carrot as the
camera moves in for a close-up.
Playboy licensed the video rights to another company, Elite Home Video, and
reacquired the rights in the early 1990s, said Bill Farley, a spokesman for
When Schwarzenegger entered the recall campaign, there was renewed interest
in the video, Farley said. Playboy considered releasing a DVD version but refrained,
Farley said. He said he did not know why. Copies were being sold on the Internet,
and the tape briefly flared as an issue in the campaign.
A Schwarzenegger spokesman at the time cast the video as "PG-13 material."
Wells signed an initial agreement with American Media on Aug. 22, 2003 —
two weeks after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy. In exchange for $500,
Wells agreed to "provide AMI with information regarding [the] Arnold Schwarzenegger
tape" and to not discuss it with anyone else, according to the contract.
On Sept. 3, 2003, Wells and the company signed a second contract that paid
him $1,500. In return, he relinquished his copy of the video. He also agreed
to never "discuss or in any way disclose to any person other than a representative
of AMI any facts relating to the videotape," according to the agreement.
The contracts have no expiration date. The second contract's time frame is
given as "perpetual."
Other copies of the video remain in circulation and are still being sold on