TV presenter 'groped' by Schwarzenegger may sue

California election: Three more women come forward to add to tide of harassment allegations against actor-turned-politician

The British television presenter who alleges she was sexually harassed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a London hotel is threatening to sue him for libel over his claim that she invented the incident.

Close friends of Anna Richardson say she is furious that Schwarzenegger aides, in attempting to shore up his support ahead of Tuesday's recall election for California governor, briefed against her. The movie star's spin-doctors claimed that, far from having her breasts groped against her will, Ms Richardson invited him to examine them.

Ms Richardson's threat came as three more women stepped forward to add to the tide of sexual allegations facing Mr Schwarzenegger.

A former intern at CNN, Collette Brooks, told reporters that he groped her buttocks and told her she had "a nice ass" while she was showing him around a studio 25 years ago. In another incident, an assistant director on his 1988 film Twins claimed he had regularly undressed in front of her in his trailer, while Carla Baron, a stand-in on the same movie set, said he had sandwiched her between himself and a crew member and forced his tongue into her mouth.

Mr Schwarzenegger is also accused of being a Nazi sympathiser after the emergence of an old interview transcript in which he appeared to praise Hitler - an allegation he immediately denied, stating that his quotes had been taken out of context.

Ms Richardson has alleged that Mr Schwarzenegger grabbed her and pulled her on to his knee before squeezing her nipple while she interviewed him for an LWT film show, The Big Screen, at the Dorchester hotel in London in December 2000.

The claims by the 32-year-old vicar's daughter were originally published in The Sun shortly after the alleged incident. They resurfaced last week when the Los Angeles Times detailed a series of similar complaints by five other women about the star's past indiscretions.

While he was quick to admit to having "behaved badly" towards some women in the past, his campaign managers denied these included Ms Richardson. Sheryl Main, a Hollywood publicist who was with the actor during Ms Richardson's interview with him, insisted the presenter approached him, cupped her right breast and said: "What do you think of these?"

Ms Richardson has told friends that she may sue Mr Schwarzenegger and/or his aides for accusing her of lying.

Since her allegations re-emerged on Thursday, the glamorous but, until now, little-known presenter has been bombarded with interview requests from media outlets around the world. Currently on holiday with her partner, Ms Richardson is understood to have been negotiating to sell her story to a British tabloid.

A source close to Ms Richardson said it was now "a possibility" she would sue Mr Schwarzenegger over his denial of her claims, adding: "Comments in the LA Times have basically libelled Anna."

In her original interview with The Sun about the alleged incident, she said: "He kept saying how fantastic I looked and staring at my boobs. When I went to shake his hand he pulled me on to his knee, saying, 'I really want to know if your breasts are real.' I told him they are an F-cup. Before I knew what was happening he circled my nipple with his finger and gave it a squeeze. He then said, 'Yeah, they are real.' I stood up and said, 'You're making me nervous.'

"He told me not to be nervous and pulled me back on his knee. I said, 'Can I go, please?' He said, 'Yeah', and patted my bum as I went off."

At the time, his spokesman said, "I don't know anything about this particular incident but Arnie is a big flirt, as is Anna. Most presenters know how to handle him and understand he's just flirting."

As the latest, potentially damaging, allegations were made public, there were some signs of an upturn in Mr Schwarzenegger's fortunes on the campaign trail itself. With the actor barnstorming his way across the state on the so-called California Comeback Express, his supporters rallied to his defence.

Lynn Harwood-Campbell, a true-blue Republican with two sons in the military, was typical of the doting fans he encountered on Friday. After waiting for two hours with a gaggle of girlfriends in the sizzling heat of California's Central Valley to catch a glimpse of her idol, she told reporters: "He can grope me any time. What would you prefer, a cigar with Bill Clinton, or a grope with Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

Others tried to turn the guns on Gray Davis, the incumbent Democrat governor whom the actor is trying to unseat. One roadside sign read: "Gray Davis groped me when he reached into my wallet."