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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s startling admission that he fathered a child out of wedlock over a decade ago begs a number of questions, chief among them:

  1. Who is the mystery female employee he impregnated?
  2. Having hidden it so well under heavy scrutiny, why admit it now?
  3. How could be run for office while hiding a secret of this magnitude?

We don’t know the answer to question #1 right now, though we imagine we will in time. The second is equally unclear. The third? Only Arnold knows.

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger
(Getty Images for CinemaCon)

His mistress, who worked in the family’s home and continued to do so until earlier this year, always maintained that her then-husband was the dad.

This is a remarkable story for a number of reasons.

Even if Schwarzenegger’s public persona was a macho rogue, adultery doesn’t play well with voters … nor does lying and pulling a John Edwards.

When the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate knocked up Rielle Hunter, he denied it to everyone’s face until he was flat out busted.

Arnold, according to reports today at least, came clean to wife Maria Shriver very recently, prompting her to leave the actor and ex-governor.

Schwarzenegger and Shriver separated last week and have four children ages 13-21. The split came amid rumors of Arnold’s philandering and drifting apart from his wife, but no mention of his affair or illegitimate child was made.

Until the Los Angeles Times broke the story yesterday and he confirmed it. The question is whether the Times would have found anything had the couple not split up, and if not, why Arnold didn’t just take this one to his grave.

His behavior and history with women became an issue during his first campaign for California governor, in the 2003 election, but he weathered it.

Shriver offered a timely and politically crucial defense of her husband, vouching for his personal integrity. He won in 2003, then again in 2006.

So after all that, how did this come out now, right after he left the state house and returned to life as a private citizen? Perhaps because of that?

Maybe his hand was forced in some way. Maybe he just couldn’t keep it from Maria anymore and the guilt ate away at him. Maybe time will tell.

Earlier today, Maria Shriver released a statement, saying, “This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children.”