LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - To fans, he was movie star tough guy the Terminator. Then he turned to politics and was affectionately dubbed the Governator. But after acknowledging that he fathered a child out of wedlock, Arnold Schwarzenegger was swiftly given a new name -- the Sperminator.
Schwarzenegger's admission on Tuesday that he impregnated a member of his household staff 10 years ago, while married to Maria Shriver and before running for California governor, triggered scorn, shock and ridicule in the U.S. media.
The couple's announcement last week that they were splitting after 25 years of marriage and four children followed allegations in 2003 that the bodybuilder turned action hero had made unwanted sexual advances on women in the past.
Shriver at the time defended her husband and helped save his gubernatorial campaign, fueling the outrage on Tuesday over Schwarzenegger's secret offspring.
Veteran Hollywood publicist Michael Levine called it "the most outrageous Hollywood scandal" since director Woody Allen's affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his longtime companion, actress Mia Farrow, in 1992.
"I don't think I am shockable any more ... but this one is breathtaking in its outrageous, egregious, irresponsible arrogance," Levine said.
The all-female hosts of television chat show "The View" feasted on Schwarzenegger's disclosure. "Who knew that the Sperminator was doing more than pumping iron?" quipped co-host Joy Behar.
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, whose newspaper was the first to break the story, scathingly termed Schwarzenegger "the biggest phony."
"I would have thought it would be hard for Mr. Universe to top his 2003 confession that he was a serial groper.
"Now I'm wondering if there's anything else we should know. Any more love children out there? Has anybody checked with maids and nannies in the (Los Angeles) neighborhood where Schwarzenegger lives?" Lopez wrote on Tuesday.
Shriver on Tuesday asked for compassion, privacy and respect at what she called this "painful and heartbreaking time."
Two of her four children with Schwarzenegger took to Twitter, both stating their love for their family.
"Some days you feel like shit, some days you want to quit and just be normal for a bit, yet i love my family till death do us apart," wrote Patrick Schwarzenegger, 17, who signed himself "Shriver."
Katherine Schwarzenegger, 21, said in a tweet of her own, "This is definitely not easy but I appreciate your love and support as i begin to heal and move forward in life. I will always love my family!"
The scandal broke four months after Schwarzenegger left office as California governor and prepares to return to his iconic role as a killing-machine cyborg from the future in a proposed new "Terminator" movie.
It was too early on Tuesday to assess the damage to his Hollywood plans. But Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief of celebrity website HollywoodLife.com, also derided Schwarzenegger as "Arnold the Sperminator" and said it was "way too late to ask for the forgiveness of the public."
"You never would have been elected if Maria hadn't had your back. And certainly you never would have been elected if the voters knew about the affair that produced this child," Fuller wrote.
Editing by Steve Gorman