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Schwarzenegger’s housekeeper now center of attention

The cul-de-sac where a woman identified as the mother of a child by Arnold Schwarzenegger now lives has become a maelstrom of TV cameras, reporters and onlookers.
/ Source: The New York Times

She moved here nearly a year ago, to a four-bedroom home with a pool in this middle-class community more than 100 miles from Los Angeles and the Brentwood mansion where she had worked for 20 years. Mildred Patricia Baena had been a housekeeper for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver through his years as governor, retiring some time last year.

Ms. Baena was also the mother of the son Mr. Schwarzenegger fathered during her time in the mansion, according to two friends of the family. Mr. Schwarzenegger’s disclosure to his wife about the son he had with Ms. Baena was what led to the couple’s separation earlier this year, though he did not publicly reveal the existence of the child until this week.

Native Dancer Street, the quiet cul-de-sac where Ms. Baena now lives in this Central Valley city, was a maelstrom of television cameras, reporters and onlookers Wednesday morning as her identity became known. Her one-story home sits at the end of the street in a tidy and trim subdivision. White blinds covered the windows of the tan-colored and red-tile-roof house Wednesday morning, and there was no sign of anyone inside.

Ms. Baena’s name first surfaced Tuesday night on several gossip Web sites, but could not be independently confirmed with multiple sources until Wednesday morning. The Los Angeles Times had first revealed the existence of the son late Monday, but did not name him or the mother except to say that she had been employed in Mr. Schwarzenegger’s household.

Several of Ms. Baena’s neighbors complained about the crowd, and police officers were dispatched to the scene. At the same time, neighbors began to appreciate just who it was who had moved in up the street from them, even as she laid low, at least this day.

One neighbor, Mike Hurd, said he had seen the family several times over the last few months but had never met them. He said he had seen a few young children and the mother, but had never seen a man going into the home. The son of Mr. Schwarzenegger and Ms. Baena is said to be about 13 years old, about the same age as the youngest of Mr. Schwarzenegger and Ms. Shriver’s four children, Christopher.

The neighbor said the previous owners had built the home about 14 years ago. According to real estate records, Ms. Baena bought it last year for $268,000.

Marty Steelman, a woman who lives next door, said the real estate agent who sold the house to Ms. Baena in June told Ms. Steelman that it had been purchased by Mr. Schwarzenegger for an employee who was retiring. Property records show Ms. Baena as the property’s owner.

Photos of Ms. Baena began to circulate on the Internet Tuesday evening, all of them taken from what appeared to be her page on MySpace.com, the social networking site.

Mr. Schwarzenegger acknowledged early Tuesday in a statement that he had fathered a child with a member of his household staff a few years before running for governor, a secret that he said he hid from his wife and that aides said he kept from them. Through much of her pregnancy and for the eight years that Mr. Schwarzenegger served as one of the highest-profile governors in the nation, the woman continued to work in the couple’s Brentwood home. Some of their friends, looking back, said they now believe the child was an occasional presence in the house in the gated community at the end of Mandeville Canyon Road.

Ms. Shriver — Mr. Schwarzenegger’s wife of 25 years, a former television news correspondent and a member of the Kennedy family — issued her own statement Tuesday reflecting what her friends described as the devastating and utterly shocking collapse of a marriage that had captured national attention. Ms. Shriver had moved out of the house and into a Beverly Hills hotel earlier this year.

“As a mother, my concern is for the children,” she said. “I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal. I will have no further comment.”

On Tuesday evening, Ms. Shriver was among the guests onstage in Chicago at a taping for the final episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” according to ABC.com.

The family scandal unfolded in real time on social networks. Their older son, Patrick, 17, posted his distress on his Twitter account, though he presented his last name as Shriver, rather than Schwarzenegger. “Some days you feel” terrible, he wrote, paraphrasing lyrics from a Fort Minor song, including a profanity to convey that feeling. He added, “Some days you want to quit and just be normal for a bit, yet I love my family till death do us apart.”

His sister Katherine, 21, wrote on Twitter: “This is definitely not easy but I appreciate your love and support as I begin to heal and move forward.”

Associates of Mr. Schwarzenegger and Ms. Shriver, pointing to the request for privacy, offered only scant details about his son with Ms. Baena. Several friends said that she was pregnant while working around the house at the same time that Ms. Shriver was pregnant with Christopher. Ms. Baena and her son did not live in the house.

By every account, Mr. Schwarzenegger made no mention of the situation to Ms. Shriver or to the team of political consultants he brought in during the 2003 recall election against Gray Davis, and in his re-election campaign in 2006.

Friends of both Mr. Schwarzenegger and Ms. Shriver expressed astonishment not only at his actions, but also that he had eluded detection by the public and his family over the course of his very public life. Mr. Schwarzenegger told his wife about the affair only late last year, at the end of his public service career, and shortly after Ms. Baena left the job with severance after working for the family for 20 years.

“After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,” he said in a statement. “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses, and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”

Democrats who worked for Mr. Davis during the recall election said they were not surprised at the revelation, noting that rumors about Mr. Schwarzenegger’s infidelity were a constant backdrop of the campaign.

“In 2001 when he first came forward and indicated that he might run for governor there were rumors coming to us constantly about affairs and children,” said Garry South, a Democratic consultant in Los Angeles. That year, Mr. Schwarzenegger threatened to sue Mr. South, who worked for Mr. Davis at the time and sent reporters copies of Premiere magazine detailing Mr. Schwarzenegger’s issues with women. “There were always stories about kids, how there was a son out there, some kid he had been supporting.”

Peter Ragone, who was a senior adviser to Mr. Davis at the time, said: “There were all sorts of rumors flying around like this. Voters knew what they needed to know on this topic with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and honestly they just didn’t care.”

None of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s political advisers agreed to speak on the record about the episode; nor did Ms. Shriver’s friends or family members. Ms. Shriver has always benefited from careful image management, and keeping a close cadre of friends and confidants who circle the wagons in times of trouble.

This article, "," first appeared in The New York Times.