[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Maria Shriver: Arnie's secret weapon
By Verity Murphy
BBC News Online

When film star turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the stage as California's new governor the first person he thanked was his wife, Maria Shriver.

Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Maria Shriver: Kennedy clan clout and a solid reputation in news
"I know how many votes I got today because of you," Mr Schwarzenegger said to the woman who had defended him amid allegations of sexual misconduct in the final stages of campaigning.

While Ms Shriver's decision to stand by her man proved instrumental in ensuring that Mr Schwarzenegger was able to weather that particular storm, her potent influence did not end there, observers say.

Ms Shriver is a scion of the Kennedy clan - America's most revered political dynasty - who can count slain President John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy as her uncles.

And as a TV journalist for NBC she is one of the best known faces in the American media.

Political heritage

The daughter of Eunice Kennedy, who is a sister of JFK, Robert and Edward Kennedy, Ms Shriver was born a true blue-blood of American politics.

The immigrant Irish family, whose history is interwoven with the nation's, built a fortune and rose to the top of the political tree, casting a spell of youth and glamour that captivated the American public.

Even the Kennedy family has its own big tent policy
Senator Edward Kennedy

Even the Shriver side of the family are no strangers to politics, as Maria's own father Sargent Shriver once ran for the office of vice president with George McGovern in 1972.

But if Ms Shriver was born into the upper echelons of America's ruling elite it was as a Democrat, not as a Republican.

Blood thicker than water

Her Republican governor husband could not have been a more unlikely match.

The two first met at a charity tennis tournament in 1977 when Ms Shriver was just 21 and Mr Schwarzenegger a 30-year-old bodybuilder, newly arrived from Austria, hoping to make it big in Hollywood.

Ms Shriver married the action movie hero in 1986 and the two have four children, aged between five and 13.

The couple have spent their time shuttling in their private jet between homes in Los Angeles and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Sargent Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Maria's mother is the sister of ex-president John F Kennedy

In the run-up to the election Democrat Senator Edward Kennedy remained loyal to his party by refusing to endorse Mr Schwarzenegger's candidacy.

But with Mr Schwarzenegger firmly in place in the governor's mansion, the Kennedy clan have demonstrated that blood is thicker than water, by embracing the new Republican branch of their political dynasty.

"Even the Kennedy family has its own big tent policy," Senator Edward Kennedy said as he congratulated Mr Schwarzenegger.

Job prospects

"I look forward very much to working with him on the many issues where we agree - especially in improving the quality of education and expanding opportunities for all our people," the senator added.

"What better proof could there be that America really is a nation of immigrants?" Mr Kennedy said, adding that the victory was reminiscent of the early days of his family's rise from immigrants to powerbrokers.

Senator Edward Kennedy
Senator Edward Kennedy fell short of endorsing Schwarzenegger

Now, with family divisions well and truly smoothed over, Ms Shriver should have been looking forward to a similarly smooth transition to the role of California's first lady.

But now it seems her job as NBC journalist and news anchor may have to change because of her husband's win.

Ms Shriver took an unpaid leave of absence to join her husband on the campaign trail - making several key appearances at rallies to drum up support.

She is expected to return to work soon and some have argued that her husband's move to the governor's mansion could have ramifications for her job as a serious news journalist, working primarily for "Dateline NBC".

But executives at NBC, who will meet Ms Shriver soon to discuss the issue, say that neither her nor the company's reputation will be compromised in any way.

"She's not going to report on California politics nor anything that a Governor Schwarzenegger might have to make a ruling on," NBC News President Neal Shapiro said.

Mr Shapiro noted that in the past Ms Shriver had managed to strike a balance between being a member of the Kennedy family and dealing with political issues and that there was every reason to believe this would be the case here.

"She's an experienced and talented and hardworking journalist. I see no reason why her career should be wiped away because her husband has a career in public life," he said.

The BBC's Richard Forrest
"The people of California voted in their millions for Arnold"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific