ARNOLD Schwarzenegger has been accused of sexism and homophobia after the California governor referred to politicians delaying his state budget as "girlie men".
The Hollywood actor turned Republican politician made the remark at a political rally, aiming it at Democrats who, he claimed, were holding up his budget by catering to special-interest groups.
The term "girlie men" first appeared in the United States television comedy show Saturday Night Live in a sketch in which two Schwarzenegger-worshipping weightlifters use it to mock those who do not meet their standards of physical perfection.
But its use by the California governor has provoked a political storm.
Referring to his political opponents, Schwarzenegger told a crowd at an Ontario shopping centre on Saturday: "If they don’t have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, ‘I don’t want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don’t have the guts, I call them girlie men."
Democrats said Schwarzenegger’s remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from the budget negotiations.
Senator Sheila Kuehl said that the governor had resorted to "blatant homophobia".
"It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult," she said.
"That’s very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership."
However, a spokesman for the governor said no apology would be forthcoming.
Schwarzenegger omitted the phrase from a later version of the speech given at another town on Sunday.