Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is the victim of a politically driven smear campaign as allegations about sexual harassment and remarks he reportedly made about Adolf Hitler dog him in the final days of his California gubernatorial campaign.
"This is the last four days [of my campaign] and people are attacking me with the women stuff, attack me with the Hitler stuff, anything they can find," Schwarzenegger told KABC-TV on his campaign tour bus today. Schwarzenegger did not point the finger at a specific group or opponent, but said he had no doubt that the intent was to terminate his gubernatorial bid.
"I only guess it is to destroy my campaign," he said. "And people have been paid, people have been encouraged to do that. I have no idea. This is my first political campaign."
Part of the controversy surrounding Schwarzenegger stems from claims that he made statements in the 1970s professing admiration for Hitler. ABCNEWS has obtained a copy of an unpublished book proposal with quotes from what was called a "verbatim transcript" of an interview Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the film Pumping Iron.
Asked who his heroes were, he was quoted as saying, "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."
The book proposal also quoted Schwarzenegger as saying he wished he could have an experience "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."
The author of the book proposal, Pumping Iron's director, George Butler, told ABCNEWS that the quotes needed to be seen in the context of Schwarzenegger's admiration of powerful men, and that he never said anything anti-Semitic.
In a statement circulated late Friday by the Schwarzenegger campaign, Butler said he might have written the proposal from inaccurate notes. He said a "closer reading" of what he believes is an original transcript of the 1975 interview shows that Schwarzenegger actually said: "I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it."
Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Rob Stutzman said campaign officials had spoken with Butler in recent days, but said they did not pressure him to release a statement.
Schwarzenegger Says He Has No Memory of the Remarks
The story broke Thursday night as Schwarzenegger kicked off his bus tour of California — an event that was supposed to be the crescendo of his campaign leading up to the Oct. 7 recall election.
Shortly after the story surfaced, Schwarzenegger said he didn't recall making the remarks, but said he has no admiration for Hitler or the Nazis.
"I cannot remember any of this, all I can tell you is that I despise anything that Hitler stood for," he said. "I despise anything what the Nazis stood for … anything that the Third Reich stood for. Anything that they've done, the atrocities that they've created … and this is why for many many years I've been fighting against prejudice.
He said he has given "millions of dollars" to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and called Wiesenthal "one of my heroes … because he always preaches justice."
Later Thursday evening, at a news conference with wife Maria Shriver at his side, he repeated the denial.