(CNN) — Arnold Schwarzenegger said he dealt with his multiple affairs, like other big moments in his life, by denying them — even, and at times especially from his wife.
“That’s the way I handled things, and it always has worked,” the action hero-turned-politician said in an interview Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “But it’s not the best thing for people around me.”
For instance, Schwarzenegger admitted that he had wanted to hide his heart surgery in 1997 from his then-pregnant wife of 11 years, Maria Shriver. He also confided that he didn’t tell Shriver about his plan in 2003 to run for governor of California until a few days before his campaign announcement, news that left her tearful and shaken.
Moreover, the actor and former world-class bodybuilder admitted to cheating on Shriver, who publicly defended him against allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct with women during his gubernatorial campaign. While he did not specify how many affairs he’d had before Shriver filed for divorce in July 2011, Schwarzenegger admits two women he was involved with include “Red Sonja” co-star Brigitte Nielsen (while he and Shriver were dating, according to Schwarzenegger) and his family’s longtime housekeeper, Mildred Patricia Baena.
Nine months after Schwarzenegger and Baena had their affair, she gave birth to a son — less than a week after he and Shriver’s fourth child, Christopher, was born.
Baena remained the family’s housekeeper for years, with her son sometimes around the house as well. But Schwarzenegger said in the “60 Minutes” interview that he didn’t have any suspicions he was the father until the boy was 7 or 8 years old and he began to notice “that he started looking like me.”
“It was never discussed, but I put things together,” said Schwarzenegger, whose autobiography “Total Recall” hits bookshelves Monday.
After that realization, he said he began sending Baena extra money for her and her son, without talking about his being the boy’s father.
Schwarzenegger also denied to Shriver that he’d had an affair and that Baena’s child was his son — until Shriver confronted him during a marriage counseling session a few months before their break-up.
“She said, ‘Am I off on this or am I not?’ And I said, ‘You are absolutely correct.'”
By then, Schwarzenegger said he had known he’d fathered the child for “five or six years.” He called the ordeal “the stupidest thing I’ve done in the whole relationship,” and one that ultimately spurred his divorce.
“I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria and unbelievable pain on the kids,” he said of his other four children.
The native Austrian became an international celebrity in the 1970s as a legendary bodybuilder, capturing four Mr. Universe titles before turning his attention to movies and becoming one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.
Long active in public causes, Schwarzenegger turned increasingly to politics. He announced his first run for public office in 2003 on “The Tonight Show”– despite what he felt was a “dismissive” attitude from ace Republican operative Karl Rove — and beat recalled Gov. Gray Davis to become California’s governor.
During the CBS interview, Schwarzenegger discussed some of his experiences in Sacramento, when he was mired in thorny budget issues and was known as a moderate even as he then, and now, proudly defines himself as a Republican. He said, for example, that he performed two same-sex weddings while in office, even though he publicly supported defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and vetoed legislation in September 2005 that would have legalized gay marriage in the state.
Winning re-election in 2006, Schwarzenegger remained governor until his term ended in January 2011. Since then, he has returned to the silver screen — not due to a desire to amass more money, he insists — including this summer’s “The Expendables 2″ and a slew of new projects set for release in the next few years.
Schwarzenegger has remained, too, in the public eye. That includes lending his name, and money, to a new political institute at the University of Southern California, as well as writing and now touting his new autobiography.
In addition to his professional and political successes, the latter process led him to reflect on many “screw-ups” he has made over the years, some of which he attributed to being “an expert in living in denial.”
Still, Schwarzenegger added that he’s tried to stay positive and never been one to get bogged down by his mistakes.
“I don’t dwell on it,” he said. “I don’t suffer anything that I have lost.”
A spokesman for Shriver told CNN Sunday night that there would be no comment from Shriver in response to the “60 Minutes” interview.