SACRAMENTO — Senate leader Don Perata on Monday downplayed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's harsh, taped criticism — in which the governor called Perata "really weird" and "a very sick man" — as coming during "the heat of battle."

"God knows I wouldn't want everything I say to my staff to be broadcast either," the Oakland Democrat told reporters regarding the Republican governor's private comments caught on tape and released Sunday. "In our business, you get (ticked) off and you say things you shouldn't say."

The audio files also captured criticism of the Bay Area's sole Republican lawmaker, Assemblyman Guy Houston of San Ramon, when a top aide to the governor remarked that Houston would "pee his pants" if the governor criticized him about a quote in a newspaper.

Houston, among the Republicans that look to Schwarzenegger as the biggest blessing to the California GOP in decades, more than downplayed the comment.

"It's flattering to be mentioned, even negatively, sometimes," Houston said in an interview. "It sounds like locker room talk to me, not meant for public consumption."

Schwarzenegger and his aides made the comments during a series of sessions last spring, meant to help his chief speech writer better learn the governor's anecdotes and manner of speaking.

At the time, the governor and lawmakers were ensnared in difficult negotiations over what Schwarzenegger planned as the crowning achievement of his re-election campaign: a massive infrastructure bond package.


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Perata blocked the placement of the bonds on the June ballot with some tough language of his own. Lawmakers and the governor ultimately agreed to put a successful public-works bond package on the November ballot.

"In retrospect, it all worked out pretty well, all things being equal. Maybe that was an important thing, being sick and weird," Perata said. "I was vindicated."

The administration released the tapes and transcripts, culled from more than three hours of the private conversation, late Sunday after the Los Angeles Times obtained them elsewhere.

The taped conversations first made a splash in September, when the Times reported on a six-minute snippet of the tapes. Schwarzenegger mused on the ethnicity of Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-El Centro, who is of Puerto Rican descent. The governor speculated that her "hot" temperament might be the result of the mixture of "black blood" and "Latino blood."

Two aides to Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democrat Schwarzenegger later defeated, had located the audio files online.

On Sunday, the governor's office blamed the Angelides campaign for leaking the complete tapes — assertions Angelides' former aides denied.

In another part of the tape regarding Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, the governor said the Los Angeles Democrat is a "political operator" who lacks "passion" on issues.

Nunez, who was at an Assembly Democratic retreat in Napa on Monday, refused to comment, as did his spokesman, Steve Maviglio.

But Perata said that "it's not going to ruin my relationship with the governor."

Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, agreed on Monday that the flap would have no lasting impact.

The governor's ability to work with Speaker Nunez, Senator Perata, and the rest of the Legislature will not be affected," McLear said. "The governor has worked with these leaders on important issues. That is much more telling of their relationship than heat-of-the-moment private remarks made nearly a year ago."

In an attempt at damage control, Schwarzenegger's communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, late Sunday night, issued excerpts of the tapes aimed at highlighting some of Schwarzenegger's positive comments.

The quotes show a governor "who is thoughtful, concerned and focused on solving some of California's most serious problems."

"Gov. Schwarzenegger discusses his hope of inspiring kids to accomplish their dreams," for example, Mendelsohn said. "He shares his ideas on tolerance and the need for as many tolerance museums as gymnasiums."

But pundits said even some of those comments looked as if the governor was looking to generate political capital from the topics.

MediaNews Sacramento Bureau writer Kate Folmar contributed to this report.