NEW YORK (AP) – In contrast to the “Tonight” show – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unofficial late-night venue – David Letterman is airing material that would make most politicians consider a career change.

Over the past week, Letterman’s “Meet the Governor” segment has rolled old footage of the incoming California governor grasping a woman’s buttocks, smoking marijuana and grinning goofily dressed in an Indian outfit. There’s no political motivation; Letterman just wants to be funny, said Rob Burnett, executive producer of Letterman’s “Late Show.”

“For us, it’s an easy decision – what is on the mind of the country and can it be made funny?” he said. “Arnold as governor of California satisfies both objectives. As a bonus, it’s pretty easy to make funny.”

A Schwarzenegger spokesman did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Two of the segments could be seen as embarrassing for Schwarzenegger given allegations, raised late in his campaign for governor, that he had groped women in the past.

In one, he is seen conversing with a woman over a table of food. At Schwarzenegger’s urging, she seductively licks a carrot stick. The second segment shows Schwarzenegger dancing with women dressed in skimpy costumes; he grips the buttocks of one woman with two hands and grins at the camera.

“That’s the governor of California, for God’s sake,” Letterman said after the film stopped rolling on one segment.

Leno hasn’t been afraid to crack jokes about Schwarzenegger. According to an analysis by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Leno made 18 jokes at Schwarzenegger’s expense between Aug. 6 and Oct. 6.

During the same time period, Letterman made 40 jokes about Schwarzenegger, the Washington-based think tank said.

Leno made a total of 69 jokes about Schwarzenegger’s political opponents, including Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante and Arianna Huffington, while Letterman made only three. Leno’s show is taped in California, while Letterman is New York-based.

“Leno was certainly taking home run shots at the other contenders, but he kept his bat on his shoulder for Arnold,” said Matthew Felling, spokesman for the center. “It was the exact opposite on the other side of the country.”

Burnett said the “Late Show” hasn’t heard anything from the Schwarzenegger camp about the “Meet the Governor” segments. The governor-elect has a standing invitation to appear on the “Late Show,” although Burnett isn’t holding his breath.

“It wouldn’t be a political commercial,” he said. “He’d have to answer some tough questions, real questions from Dave.”

The “political commercial” reference isn’t meant to be a shot at Leno, Burnett said; both shows have political guests who come on with their own agendas. Letterman’s Schwarzenegger jokes are not in response to the governor-elect’s “Tonight” show connection, he said.

Burnett has worked with Letterman for 18 years and said he has “no idea” who his boss votes for or what party he supports.

Although the “Late Show” is in repeats this week, there may be more “Meet the Governor” segments in its future.

“Like everything else, we’ll sense when people get tired of it and we’ll stop,” he said. “At the moment, nobody seems to be getting tired of it.”

AP-ES-10-21-03 1449EDT



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